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Episode Twenty-Two

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I awoke at dawn, feeling alive and healthy. I performed my morning exercises and woke myself up to the day. I could not perform the full ritual - I had lost a lot of strength. The Pak'ma'ra appeared and suggested that we get something for breakfast. Something with cereal grains and plenty of carbohydrates. He muttered something about being just right. So we drove back into the town and raided the food store again.

After breakfast, we prepared ourselves for the trip. We needed a more powerful navigation computer, which held us up somewhat. Russell realised that the camping store would probably have navcomps, and indeed it did. We shoved food and camping gear into the luggage compartment of the vehicle - we had water, food, a tent, cooking gear, everything. If this vehicle broke down, I did not want to be left without food, or water, or shelter, again. The Pak'ma'ra ascertained that our vehicle's fuel cell would soon require replenishment, so we took one from another open groundcar and slotted it into ours.

One of the last things we did was obtain new clothes. The Pak'ma'ra went into a frenzy beating open the door of a clothing retailer. He really wanted to wear something better than a fluffy robe it seemed. It always seems amusing to me when the quietly spoken, gentle Pak'ma'ra does something uncharacteristically violent.

He wasn't the only one in need of new garments. Indeed, all of our clothes were in a poor state. I was lacking sleeves on my rags, and they smelt. Also, it was probably still slightly contaminated from the installation under the mountain. My boots were in surprisingly good condition, despite weeks of walking in the desert and the Human expelling his stomach contents on them. I shucked my rags and looked for something appropriate to my station. Of course, these were all Markab clothes, and they are big on reds and golds and oranges, with a little bile green and pink thrown in. I couldn't find anything dark and tasteful, so I decided that the green stretch leggings with a close fitting green tunic would suffice. If I couldn't be tasteful, I would be startling.

We decided to go to the largest city in the area. Capitalia is how the Pak'ma'ra interpreted the Markab symbols. Capitalia was around 900 kilometres away. He asked me if Kimmini had any thought on the matter - as if I would know! "She isn't exactly on tap - it's not something that is always there, you know." The Pak'ma'ra looked at me, disappointment and a curious look on his face, a look that I could only interpret as disbelief?

The Human drove. He had the most experience, it turned out. I sat in the back with Nar'Bon and tried to engage him in games such as Eye Spy (another game that all races seem to have some version of, although only the Human's version contains a pun). "I spy with my little eye something beginning with 's'."

"Sky" said Nar'Bon.


"Sun," suggested Nar'Bon.

Now neither sun nor sky had occurred to me, although both were in abundance outside because it seemed to me that there was even more of something else. "Nope - didn't think of that one!" I looked at him, waiting for him to say the obvious, but he didn't. "Sand of course! Ha, ha, my turn again!"

"I spy with my little eye something beginning with 'm'."

Nar'Bon had no ideas.

"More sand, of course." I continued, "I spy with my little eye something beginning with 'e'."

"Even more sand."

So it was Nar'Bon's turn. "I spy with my little eye something beginning with 'b'."

"Bottom," mine was already getting sore from sitting down - I hadn't sat so much in days. "No." "Hm...beginning with b. Umm," I looked around the vehicle. Staying in Earther was difficult. I had to search my vocabulary. "Boot." Nar'Bon shook his head. I finally guessed it with, "Bonnet."

After several hours driving, well actually around 1.5 hours, I was terminally bored. We were restricted to the speed limit, and I wanted to go faster, so I suggested that we find an emergency vehicle of some description. Those would surely have over-rides to overcome the transponders in the roads. The others thought is a reasonable suggestion, so we visited the next town and found the law enforcement agency there. It was simple enough to obtain another car after we gained access to the building, and we transferred our goods into a larger, faster vehicle. Russell quickly figured out how to use the overrides, with the Pak'ma'ra's help, and we were on our way. Enough vehicles were abandoned on the road that I could start counting blue cars. Some time after that, I started counting quadrupeds. Still, it was very dull. The others didn't want to stop and catch and slaughter a quadruped, though the fresh meat would be nice. The concept of fresh meat did not seem to appeal to the Pak'ma'ra at all. He must be very fussy. As I said, it was all very dull. I tried meditation, I tried talking to Na'Tal, but I didn't have anything new to say.

We were nearly at Capitalia when Nar'Bon noticed something. There was a flier, apparently of Markab design tailing us - sitting above us and keeping the same speed. We did not know how long it had been there, but it was certainly aware of our presence. After some time, it accelerated and flew on ahead, then dropped.

We decided to change our route into Capitalia. I certainly didn't want to be stopped by a roadblock and that is what I believed awaited us. We Narn are noted for our paranoia, but we have reason to be paranoid with races like the Centauri in the universe. We hadn't ascertained the species piloting the fliers we had seen, and since they hadn't exactly dropped down and said hello, I thought it quite likely that they were interested in us but not allies. That meant that they probably would be aggressive.

It was growing late enough in the day that the Human was growing tired. We had stopped a couple of times, but he was still weak from the walking. We were passing through farmlands, having left the desert behind some time ago. We stopped at one farm house, ostensibly to copy the data crystal that the Pak'ma'ra still carried. He was worried that if we only had one copy and it was taken from us (I wasn't the only one worried about the identity and friendliness of the flier occupants) then we would never know that which Kimmini had sent me to find.

There were three dead Markab in the dwelling - one in the cook's room, two in their beds. The smell was quite strong, but I was more interested in seeing if there was a terminal and independent power supply. Russell sniffed the air in the house, then explored the outside sheds, where he found a generator. We had power. There was a terminal inside. The Human tied a wad of cloth over his nose, and he and the Pak'ma'ra copied the data crystal on to the crystal Russell had carried from Orini's home.

The sun was very low on the horizon when they had finished. They said that there was a very large amount of information on the original crystal. We decided that there was no point pushing on.

The Pak'ma'ra wrapped the two Markab who had died in their beds up in their bedding and took them outside. He had shown not the slightest interest in all the carrion lying around - perhaps Pak'ma'ra are not carrion eaters after all. Or maybe they don't eat once-sentient beings.

Two of the dead were gone, but that still left the one in the cook's room. I looked at my companions and went outside to get a shovel. There had to be a shovel on a farm, and I found one in the outdoor store room. I also collected a heavy sheet of material, and scraped and shovelled the disgusting body onto it. I could not even see that this had once been a living, thinking being - this was just so much rotting meat. The smell was overwhelming as far as the Human was concerned - he left the cook's room very quickly. I had smelt much much worse - once, a long time ago, the environmental control for the live food had failed on a carrier that Na'Tal and I had served on. We had just been busted, again, (I don't remember what we had done, but we got busted so many times that I don't remember all the tricks we pulled) and our CO thought that cleaning out the food container would discipline us nicely. It didn't work. We still fooled around, still got into trouble and got moved on to cleaning out the sewage tanks. We were rated the best wing in the Narn fleet so they didn't want to discharge us, but they couldn't stop us acting like the children we were.

I washed the floor down with something highly perfumed - it couldn't disguise or drown the smell of the rotting corpse that had lain there for weeks, but it helped. Then I found the washroom and bathed, again. This time in hot water. I sang again, this time an old Earther tune that I remembered from some vids.

"I'm going to wash that smell right out of my, umm, spots, I'm going to wash that smell right out of my spots..." I scrubbed more of my peeling hide off my head - it was quite disgusting. My hide felt raw and shiny underneath. I was sure that my body was regaining muscle mass as I watched, but it would take a number of weeks before I would build back up to what I had been.

The Pak'ma'ra cooked something whilst I was bathing. It was so very good to have food and water and to be clean, even if my clothes were a little strange and of an admittedly disturbing colour. I sat up well into the night, but there was no sign of the flier that had landed closer to Capitalia, so I eventually allowed myself to sleep.

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Na'Tiel's Story / Lynne / last modified 29 February, 2000