Well, I think I’ve held some of you in suspense (feigned suspense at least, he he) over the past week. What was written in Ansi on the side of the behemoth machine? Well, I wonder if we’re going to find out…
@ @ @
Chapter 2. Tranquilizers!
“Get away from my vehicle,” came a cool voice from a distance off. “That’s Andoran property you’re touching.”
Mr. Komenk backed away from the tank, stumbling over his own feet and looking around. In midnight’s shadows, it was hard to see anything but the short, dark houses surrounding the town square.
Azen saw them first. The one who had spoken was a stout man, who appeared to be muscular, but it was hard to tell, as his form was obscured by a massive sealskin coat. By his side was a short woman—probably his wife—who didn’t look to weigh more than a hundred pounds. She too was wearing a sealskin coat but it was longer and not quite as bulky. By the way they carried themselves, and the jewelry jangling loudly at the cuffs of their sleeves and around their necks, and the rich, expensive fragrance that surrounded them like an atmosphere…it was rather obvious that they were Andoran. And this was their vehicle.
“Well, you are in our outpost,” Mr. Komenk pointed out.
“We’re just stopping in for a few of these,” said the man, holding out his leather-covered palm. Three long gems rested in his hand, catching glitters of moonlight and bending them into flashy sparkles of color. “We ran out.” The massive machine bounced cumbersomely as he climbed up the ladder on the side. His wife gave the two Westians cold glares as she followed him. (The machine bounced considerably less violently when she climbed aboard.)
Long, glassy crystals fell from the top of the craft, as the Andoran man replaced his fuel cells. The old cells, which shattered when they landed on the ground, caught no moonlight at all. It was clear that they had been all used up.
Azen and Mr. Komenk were enveloped in a cloud of black smoke, and deafened by a noise very much like a stone grinding across ice, as the vehicle’s engine started.
Suddenly, the strangers began to speak among themselves in frightened tones. Azen and Mr. Komenk took a few more steps away from the behemoth machine, nervous about what was happening.
The next glimmer that caught Azen’s eye was the long barrel of a rifle hanging over the top of the vehicle. A needle buried its long nose in his shoulder, and within seconds, he was on the ground, having strange dreams.
~ ~ ~
The world was a blur, and his mind was a whirl, when Azen awoke. He had the distinct sense of adrenaline, and he felt like the walls were closing in on him. He tried to comfort his harried mind by telling himself that he was outside, and there were no walls, but he found this to be untrue.
He was in a small dark room, probably the hull of the craft, with Mr. Komenk snoring restlessly somewhere in the same room. As his eyes adjusted to the low, blue lighting, he noticed a third person sitting with them, slicing a snow apple with a knife placidly.
“You’re awake,” the apple-eater said, with white teeth flashing in a smile. “Glad you made it through.”
“Was I not supposed to?” Azen was annoyed…he should’ve been frightened but he wasn’t thinking straight.
“Well, we shot you with a mild poison. Standard procedure for tranquilizers in Andora. That’s why you’re probably experiencing some adrenaline right now. It’s just your system coping with the tranquilizer.”
Azen felt very wronged.
“We’ll explain once your friend wakes up,” said the dark-skinned man. Azen guessed that he was from Sherasi, the Land of Burning Deserts.”
“It says…!” Mr. Komenk struggled to his feet suddenly. The stranger’s knife clanged wildly as it hit the ground, and the man exclaimed something in Sherasi.
Mr. Komenk looked around, with a wild, lost expression in his eyes. “Where are we?” He dropped to his knees suddenly. “No!” he cried, “You can’t take me!” He stumbled around in the dark, as the Sherasi crawled out of his way quickly. Mr. Komenk crashed into the wall, and crumpled to the ground crying. “I’m not done yet!” He whimpered, burying his head in the metal panels of the floor. “I’m not…I’m not…” Silence.
“He’s not taking the tranquilizer as well as you, it seems,” said the Sherasi. He stood up and ran a leathery hand through his black hair, looking thoughtful. “Everyone’s chemistry is different. It may take him a day or more to come out of it. By then, we’ll be far out of Arsab and well on our way to Cales.”
Azen choked. “Why are we going to Cales?!”
“To get out of the Westlands! We’ll be in Andora by the end of next week, I imagine.” He smiled an innocent-looking smile that Azen guessed was not as innocent as he would have liked to believe. “This is going splendidly. Now I wish you two weren’t dragging us down. It’s so difficult to get through border security with people like you hanging around. Between that and our load, we may never get out of this country.”