Author Topic: Part 5: A Sudden Departure  (Read 6749 times)

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Offline Daen

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Part 5: A Sudden Departure
« on: May 25, 2022, 12:35:14 PM »
It was a few hours before dawn the next day, when a buzzing noise pulled Moss from his torpor. He wasn't asleep exactly—unlike qars, his people never needed to fully go unconscious. The buzzing was coming from the north. From Ter's position, obviously.

As he watched, swarms of juns flew around Ter's body and latched on, flapping their wings madly. The earth which had been dug up to make room for him was rippled, and then burst apart as he left the ground! In another few moments, the huge number of juns had lifted him up above even Jora, and then away off to the west. He was gone.

What in the Core was going on? Had Ter been recalled by his people? There had certainly been no announcement through the network; Moss' dad would have sent him a message letting him know. Hurriedly, Moss ordered Fortitude and Strength to reconnect him to the network. Perhaps Jora had some information the rest of the grove didn't know.

She was already hosting a small meeting when he 'arrived'. Rane was there too, sending out waves of agitation and confusion. Moss tried to send out his own calm to his friend. Jora's emanations were carefully controlled as she spoke. "I'm not sure what's going on, but I've lost contact with all of my qars. None of them are answering any of my calls. They were all in my chambers asleep, last I heard."

Moss' father spoke up. "I have three that are close to your roots. With your permission, I'll send them to check it out." Jora sent her agreement, and the whole group waited a few moments in tense anticipation. Sending instructions to qars remotely was often tricky, requiring a relay system sometimes. However with simple orders like 'go there and look around before reporting back', a simple aerial enzyme did the job. His father gave the order, and his qars picked up the scent and headed into Jora's qar enclosure.

Moss was too far away to sense their return, but he was tapped into the network's senses. "I… don't understand," his father continued finally. "All three of my qars came back out early. They're only trained to do that if—” he cut off momentarily as one of them reached his roots and bit into them. "If they're not feeling well. They're saying there's something in the air. Something foul enough to drive them back."

This couldn't be a coincidence. The Ambassador left without warning, and now their Grovekeeper's qars were attacked? It had to be an attack—poison gas didn't just appear out of nowhere!

Unless it had been delivered by Ter. A small enough number of juns could have dropped a pellet of gas inside Jora's chambers before anyone could even react! But… why? What possible reason would Ter have to attack anyone here?

It seemed his father was thinking on the same lines. "Whatever caused this, we need to contact Union leadership immediately. With your permission, Grovekeeper, I'll send an interroot message to grove Allos. It's got a CU command treqar stationed there, and it's much closer than the capital in grove Heirach."

Jora gave another assent, and his father busied himself drafting and sending his message. That in itself was concerning. Normally Jora would have slapped him down like a qar disciplining a much younger one. If she was this distracted, then it was likely her qars were all dead. Including her queen.

Moss began composing his own message. He didn't think for a second that they could count on the Continental Union to give them any information at all, much less a straight answer. No, a message to grove Ursun would take about the same time, and Noq would answer if he knew anything. Apparently he was faster at it than his father. Moss' message sped out through the network, and he watched its figurative enzyme trail through the artificial roots.

When he focused back on grove Praska's network, Tressa had started speaking. "I'm donating a dozen qars to you, Grovekeeper. I've ordered them to stay out of your chambers, but other than that, they're yours. It's the least I could do, given the circumstances."

Her example was followed by at least five other treqars. It seemed that Jora would be fine at least for now. She was part of a community, and when disaster struck one of them, the others always pitched in to help. Or at least they did here. From what Noq had told him, Moss knew that there were places in the world where even treqars who had sprouted adjacent to each other didn't know or care anything about each other. One of them could burst into flames, and the other would only be concerned that the flames might spread and hurt them as well. To Void with what happened to first one personally.

"We have another problem," his father put in suddenly, and his aura was one of concern despite his usually careful control. "The interroot system is down. I can't connect to grove Allos, or any other grove on the network. I was watching when it happened. Suddenly the roots just went dark."

"Are we under attack?" Rane asked anxiously, despite Moss' earlier efforts. A few other treqars echoed his worries.

"I don't think so," Jora said thoughtfully. Despite the massive loss of her friends, she seemed to be fully in control again. "If we were, the first step would be to destroy our links to the other groves. The interroot was shut down, not destroyed. Only the Chancellor of the Continental Union has that authority."

A chill fell over the group at that announcement. Whatever was going on here was at a much greater level than just grove Praska, then. Briefly, Moss hoped that his message had gotten through to Noq before the network had failed. It was unlikely, but he didn't want to think about that. He also felt a moment of amazement at Jora's composure. He didn't even like qars that much, but he would be devastated to lose Grace and the rest all at once like that! They were a part of him, and he of them.

Jora dismissed the meeting after giving a few more orders. The nearest treqars were directed to send scouting parties into the cavern left by the Ambassador, hopefully to find clues as to why he'd left so suddenly. Two other people were left on guard duty, with their qars taking shifts watching for anyone approaching. Wild animals were fine, but any qars or juns were to be reported immediately. Daplan was tasked with working on the interroot. She was the closest thing Praska had to a communications specialist, but it was unlikely she could make any headway.

It was all busy work, meant to keep the mind occupied and away from worry. Jora knew how to manage her people, but Moss was too smart to be distracted. The evidence was piling up here: the Ambassador had attacked their Grovekeeper! He had poisoned her qars and left. The fact that the interroot had gone down less than an hour later suggested that other groves might have been attacked as well.

Moss pondered on that, as he sent Grace and a dozen more qars to join in the communal watch effort. What did he really know about Ter's motivations? They shared a love of invention and mechanical construction, sure, but did that make them friends? They were both intelligent and highly educated (or at least Ter was—Moss was still young). They both wanted to see more of the world than the slice they'd been given as seedlings. Ter's biology allowed him to do that, but the desire was identical.

He had to have been ordered to do this. For some reason the Trejun Consensus had decided that Jora's qars were a threat. How she could possibly threaten them from half a world away was anyone's guess, but that gas pellet had been specially issued. Gas weapons had been used rarely and reluctantly across Bura. They were unpredictable unless used surgically. They were also expensive and difficult to build. The chemicals used to brew them had to be carefully mixed, or the qars doing it would have died just like Jora's.

From deep within his roots, Moss felt a rising anger. He might not have much in common with this rural community, but they were his! And they'd been attacked. He swore then and there to find out why, and to get vengeance in kind somehow.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2022, 01:32:54 AM by Daen »