The 13th Kat

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Chapter 13

Once the rats and ants had found a room in the house they liked, and everyone had gone to bed, Nazar and Nadalia quietly made their way down into the caves. They headed straight for the sealed cave, forgetting to pick up any weapons. When they got inside the first ’room’was empty, except for the bones and furniture.

“Should we try through there?” Nadalia whispered, pointing to a short tunnel that seemed to lead into another area.

Nazar nodded and led the way through the tunnel. They emerged in a small ‘room’ that had seven boxes in, that seemed to be made of glass and metal. The boxes were all empty, and when Nadalia touched one it was very cold. They were taking a closer look at one of the boxes when they heard a noise behind them, so they span round to see two male hemsepans blocking the entrance, both holding bits of wood as crude weapons.

Nadalia made a funny squeaking sound, and Nazar muttered “We’re going to die…” as they instinctively moved closer together. There was no way out, except the tunnel the two hemsepans were blocking. Unexpectedly, one of them lowered his bit of wood and said something to the other one. Both of them put their weapons on the floor, and one of them left. The one that had spoken stayed.

“What was that about?” Nadalia murmured to Levon.

“I have no idea,” he replied, “but one of them is better than two.”

“They’ve gone in the suspension room,” David told his companion. “Should we go in and surprise them?”
Ryan nodded. “We’d better take something with us though, in case they’re not friendly.” He picked up two bits of old wood from the floor. “These will do.”
The two men walked into the room where the two unknown beings had gone, and raised their improvised clubs. The two strange looking creatures turned round, and when they saw David and Ryan, looks of abject fear crossed their faces. David lowered his bit of wood.
“I don’t think they’re dangerous.” He looked at them a little closer. Strange, but… they reminded him of animals that had been around before the bombs went off. “Ryan, go get my dad. I think he’ll be very interested in these two.”
They both put the wood on the floor, and Ryan left to get David’s father. I wonder, thought David, are they intelligent? They seem to be able to communicate with each other, but they’re obviously different species. I’ll try talking to them.
“It’s alright,” he said slowly. “Don’t be frightened. My name is David.” He pointed at himself and repeated his name.

Nadalia and Nazar couldn’t understand what the hemsepans was saying, but it sounded sort of reassuring. He repeated the last word he’d said, while pointing at himself. It sounded a bit like ‘day-vid’.

Something clicked in Nadalia’s head. “Nazar, I think he’s trying to tell us his name.”

“Let’s tell him ours then.” Nazar pointed at himself and spoke very clearly. “Nay-zarr.”

Nadalia did the same. “Nads,” she said. The hemsepans watched them both, talking quietly to himself. Nadalia and Nazar looked at each other.

“Nads, I think we should figure out some way to communicate properly,” Nazar said. “You think we could teach him a bit of our language?”

Nadalia considered, watching the hemsepans. “I don’t know if we could, we don’t know his language,” she said. “Maybe Ovsanna could talk to him? Since she can read and write their language, maybe she’ll be able to understand speech?”

“Not much chance, but it’s the best shot we’ve got. You think we should go and bring her down here? Or would it be easier to try and take him up?”

“I think it would be easier to bring Ovsanna down here. Should we both go up, you think?” Nadalia asked.

Nazar thought quickly. “If both of us go, he might go and hide somewhere. I think you should stay here, and I can go up and get Ovsanna.”

Nadalia was about to protest at being left alone in a cave with the hemsepans, but before she could say anything the young male who had left returned, followed by an older male. The three of them began to talk amongst themselves, the one who had stayed getting quite animated. Nazar and Nadalia heard their names, but beyond that they couldn’t understand a word.

“Dad, it’s incredible! I think they’re intelligent, both of them! They seemed to understand when I told them my name, and I think they told me theirs. The primate said something like ‘Nayzarr’, and the other one said ‘Naddz’,” David told his father Chris excitedly.

Chris was intrigued. “You spoke to them? What else did they say?”

“I’m not sure, their language is completely different to anything I’ve heard before. I only know they were saying their names because they pointed at themselves as they said it.”

Ryan chimed in. “You think they’re aliens or something, David?”

“No, I think they’re from this planet. I think they evolved from the creatures that survived when we blew ourselves up,” David replied.

“And that’s why you thought I’d want to see them, since it’s my field of expertise,” Chris said. “I’ll see if I can communicate with them,” he said, turning to face the strange beings and slowly edging forward.

The older one was approaching them slowly, hands extended in a universal gesture of reassurance. He was speaking very softly, and seemed to be trying to make eye contact with them.

Nadalia met his eye, and stepped forward tentatively.

“Nads, what the hell are you doing?” Nazar hissed behind her.

“I think this one’s okay,” she said quietly. “Don’t worry, I’m still keeping an eye on the younger ones.”

Nadalia and the older hemsepans met halfway across the room. They stared at each other with intense curiosity, almost examining each other. “Amazing,” they both said, though neither could understand the other. However, they had no chance to attempt communication, because Levon and Drystan chose that moment to burst in waving two large weapons about.

Mari had been doing some serious thinking since seeing Nadalia at the river. She could remember most of what she had forgotten, and several things simply did not add up. Why had she thought working with Saphrax would help her political career? Why had she decided to pursue a political career to begin with? It had all seemed to start when she met Valamir, and they had gone to some kind of trial broadcast together. Since then, everything had seemed a little disjointed, as though she hadn’t really been in control of her life. But now, she knew exactly what she wanted to do. She was on her way down to the cells to talk to Tsoline, and see if she could help her get out.

“Hey Mari,” Tsoline said as Mari entered the cell. “What’s up? You look happier than last time you were in here.”

Mari smiled. “I’ve remembered a lot of stuff since then. And I took your advice, too. They’re not using drugs or chemicals, but it’s best to be safe.”

Tsoline looked surprised. “So how are they wiping people’s memories then?” she asked.

“Saphrax is using visual broadcasts to brainwash some of his agents. But luckily, the effects start wearing off after a few weeks without watching transmissions, so I’ve managed to clear my head,” Mari said. “I’m going to pretend I’m still affected though, and work against him from the inside. The first thing I want to do is let some prisoners out.”

“And you’re here to help me escape?” Tsoline asked hopefully.
Mari nodded. “I managed to copy the keys a few days ago, so I can undo your chains.” She began unlocking the shackles attaching Tsoline to the wall. She had undone the chains and the two of them were at the door when a guard appeared on the other side.

“What’s going on?” the guard called through the bars.

They both froze, unable to think of a reasonable response. The guard went into the cell, checked that no-one else was around, and turned to look at the two of them.

“You’re Mari, right? What are you doing down here?” she asked.

Mari thought quickly. “I heard banging, and I came down to investigate. When I got here Tsoline had somehow got out of her restraints and was trying to break out of the door,” she said, hoping it sounded more plausible to the guard than it did to her.

The guard raised her eyebrows. “And how did you get into the cell? There’s only two keys to the doors, I’ve got one and Saphrax keeps the other with him.” Mari looked sheepish and glanced at Tsoline. “You were trying to get her out, weren’t you?”

Mari nodded, aware that she probably wouldn’t be able to talk her way out of it.

“You could have planned it a little better,” Nyneve scolded. “Find out when the patrols are, for starters. And think up a convincing cover story before you start breaking prisoners out, rather than coming up with something on the spot. You’re lucky it was me who caught you.”

Mari and Tsoline stared in shock. “What?… Are you working against him too?” Mari asked.

“Yes, but keep it quiet. I’ve helped a few people get out already, and no-one suspects me.” Nyneve thought for a moment. “If you want, we could plan something to get Tsoline here out. It would take a couple of days though.”

Mari and Tsoline looked at each other. “I can wait a few days, it’s not that long,” Tsoline said.

“Alright,” Mari said to Nyneve, “let’s work together to bring Saphrax down.”

“Will you two put those down?” Nadalia shouted at Levon and Drystan. “There’s no need to shoot anyone, they’re not doing anything.”

“How did you know we were down here anyway?” Nazar asked, as the other two slowly lowered their weapons.

Levon answered. “A couple of Meb’s friends saw you coming down, they came up and told us,” he said. “What were you thinking? You could have been killed.”

“Considering you didn’t believe that anything was down here, how come you were so concerned?” Nazar retorted.

The three hemsepans began to talk amongst themselves, occasionally looking over at the four of them. Levon decided to ignore the question, not wanting to admit to being scared. “Well, you obviously found what you were looking for. So what are we going to do about them?” he enquired, indicating the hemsepans.

“We were thinking of getting Ovsanna to try and communicate with them somehow,” said Nadalia. “They don’t seem to be much like the ones we’ve heard about from ancient history.”

“You mean because they haven’t tried to kill and eat you yet?” Levon said sarcastically.

Drystan spoke up. “Actually, Nads might have a point. They don’t seem inclined to murder us all, at least not for the moment, and it might be a good idea to be able to talk to them.”

“Thank you Drystan.”

Levon exhaled sharply. “Alright, if you want to take them up then let’s take them up. Just don’t blame me if it all goes wrong.”

So Nadalia and Nazar began gesturing upward, pointing at themselves and the hemsepans, and eventually they got the message. One of the younger ones stayed behind, but the older one and the one called ’day-vid’ went up with the others.

Once they had reached the basement, Nazar went ahead, calling to Ovsanna. “Don’t panic, but we’re going to need your communication skills.”

The two hemsepans emerged from the basement, followed by Nadalia, Drystan and Levon. Ovsanna jumped back in alarm, and Meb and Pon, who had come to see what was happening, turned and fled upstairs.

“What… how…?” Ovsanna stuttered, caught between panic and disbelief.

Nazar attempted to reassure her. “Don’t worry, they’re safe. We think. Well, they haven’t done anything to us yet, so we should be okay.”

Nadalia rolled her eyes. “You’re not helping, Naz. Ovsanna, do you think you could talk to them, or communicate somehow?”
“I can try,” Ovsanna said nervously. “I don’t think I could speak their language, but if I had some paper I could write a message…”

“Here,” Nazar handed her some paper and the pencil she had been using to make notes on the books from the caves.

She wrote ’hello’on the paper and handed it and the pencil to the older hemsepans. He looked surprised, but wrote something back. Ovsanna read it aloud to the others. “Hello, my name is ch-riss.”

Ovsanna wrote back, beginning a simple written communication with the hemsepans. They continued writing to each other for several minutes before Ovsanna put the paper and pencil aside to tell the others what had been said.
“Apparently there’s six of them down there,” she began. “Most of them are scientists of some kind. Chris here is an evolutionary biologist, he says he’d like to know more about our history sometime. David is an inventor, and Chris’s son. There’s someone called Susan, who is Chris’s partner, and Lucy, who is David’s sister. She’s the one you saw when you first went in after hearing those noises, Nazar,” she said.
“The young female? Right. Did they tell you anything else?” Nazar asked.

Ovsanna continued. “Yes. There’s also two others called Ryan and Annie, they’re partners of David and Lucy. They were all hiding underground in the cave system after the sun weapons went off, along with some stuff they had been told to hide to preserve their culture. David had invented some suspension devices that they all… sort of froze themselves in, and when you first went in you broke the seal around the entrance, which completed a circuit that unfroze them. I’ve told them a bit about what’s going on up here, and Chris doesn’t think they’d be able to help much.”

While Ovsanna had been talking to the others, the two hemsepans had been discussing something between themselves. The younger one, David, picked up the paper and wrote something down. Ovsanna read it out to everyone. “’I think we could help, since we’re supposed to be extinct it might be like dinosaurs showing up in our time’. What do you guys think?”

Levon stretched his shoulders back. “I think everyone’s tired, and it might be better to talk about this in the morning. That way we can all concentrate better, and it gives these two a chance to talk to the other hemsepans.”

“That sounds like a good idea,” Ovsanna said as she wrote something back. The hemsepans read it and nodded before heading back down to the caves for the night. Everyone bade each other goodnight, and went to find somewhere to sleep.

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