Arita’s fluids quickened as she approached the Amah’s chamber. Orhatea were good at hiding, Tomo were masters of it. The beat her temperature increased, her obsidian shell compensated, covering her temperature spike, masking her presence to the motion sensors hidden in the floor and ceiling.
A narrowing of light along the walls indicated recording devices. Most would not have noticed it, but Arita had trained for infiltration and assassination; spotting and avoiding recording devices was her nature. Avoiding these would get her killed.
Nic of Tar inhaled the rich, earthy aromas of the mountain’s páramo. The breeze had changed direction, earlier it carried the crisp smell of saltwater. Augmentations in his nasal cavity analyzed the air sample for pollen counts and trace chemicals. A window with the results opened at the corner of his vision. The dramatic fall in pollen from yesterday indicated the freeze was early today.
This planet, Tojisoon, had a single ice covered continent and a vast ocean. Temperate zones at the edge of the continent supported an abundant and hardy array of life. The tansoon, however, lived on an island near the equator. Tar Mountain, the dormant volcano that formed the island, reached high into the atmosphere, and drove the climate for the island. As the tansoon’s primary source for crops and fresh water, maintaining its climate for maximum yield was essential.
Raksha protected his people at the Bay of Mada. Over millennia the valley had become a city, and the bay a port for sailing ships. In an earlier time, when ice covered the plains of Umaavadan, the rakshoon took refuge at Mada. The mountains surrounding the valley trapped warm moist air rising from NamaUd and made the Kishkha a time to forget old rivalries, study old texts, and share stories of Raksha’s cleverness. Wartooth had been here before, at the Kishkha of Betrayal.
This fortress, this very room, was Baga’s home. Baga was the first raka to gather quarreling families and clans under a common banner. That fight was against the tansoon and their perverse occupation of Raksha. In that great age of the first empire Baga carved his home in the side of the Mada Mountains and, on a morning like this, he stood in this window and commanded his troops in the defense of his home world.
The chill Nic felt was not from the chilly wind drying his soaked clothes. His personal augmentations were regulating his body temperature against that chill. He was upset at himself for using the implant in Wad’s brain to restrain his friend. They had not spoken of it on the walk back to the camping wagon, but the sudden glow of the wagon’s lights made Nic feel exposed to his betrayal. He wanted to apologize again. Wad had more important thoughts.
“I should have brought some fishes,” he said as they stepped into the warmth of the wagon’s exterior lights.
“We have food Wad,” Nic said. He had lost his appetite for fish.
The green linen sheet flew off Nic of Tar. He shot off his bed, naked, but ready for a fight. A thought reconfigured his reflexes for optimal reaction times, another thought improved his field of vision to three-hundred degrees. No one was in the room.
He looked out the open window to check branches below and above his bedroom. His stomach turned from vertigo created by the fisheye effect of his augmentation. He canceled the enhancement and marveled at how his perception of the world collapsed around him. Someone slapped him on the shoulder.
With unnatural speed, he spun with his left palm out and open while he tightened his right into an arrow-hand. His left hand caught an arm, but when he struck for his attacker’s throat, he hit what felt like an armpit.
Explore more of The Fundamentals Universe through my Short Story section. Get an inside look at my story development process when I re-post early drafts that found the cutting room floor, or enjoy essays with unexpected themes.