The 13th Kat

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Chapter 18

Vasag looked up from his desk at the knock. “Who is it?” he called.

“Valamir. Can I talk to you in private?”

Vasag opened the door a little. “That depends. What do you want to talk about?” he asked. He was perfectly aware that Valamir had been suspended from duty for subverting orders, and most people were of the opinion that he had gone a little mad.

“I know who the Thirteenth Kat is,” Valamir replied in a whisper. “I worked it out, but I can’t tell anyone because they won’t believe me. Can we go somewhere else?”

Vasag reluctantly agreed, and they went out to one of the less used storage sheds.

“So who do you think it is now, Valamir?” Vasag asked, remembering the last time Valamir thought he knew who the Kat was.

Valamir glared at Vasag. “I don’t think it’s anyone. I know who it is. You know the rumours about her having something to do with Korian?” Vasag nodded. “They’re right. The Kat is really Korian’s sister, Nazeli. All that stuff in her first transmission about Korian, and how close they were. And how else would she know Saphrax ordered Korian killed? The only people who knew that other than our people were the people who heard Alaric saying it at the ceremony. I’m telling you, I’m right about this,” he insisted.

“I’m not so sure. There are several people it could be on that evidence. What about his partner, Nadalia?” Vasag suggested.
Valamir blinked uncertainly. “I hadn’t thought of her. But we found where she was hiding a while ago, and there was no transmission equipment or anything. Just some crappy clothes and the proposal figurine,” he said. “No, I think it’s the sister. We haven’t traced her at all, and she’s older. More experienced. She’d have a better idea of how to keep out of sight.”

Vasag wasn’t entirely convinced, but the argument sounded more plausible than the other nonsense he’d been coming up with until now. “Okay, say you’re right. What do you intend to do about it? You’ve been suspended,” he pointed out.

“Maybe so, but you haven’t. I know who she is now, and once I trace her transmissions I’ll know where she is. If you and I work together, I can get all the information and you can bring the stuff we’ll need to capture her. What do you think?” Valamir asked, knowing Vasag wouldn’t pass up a chance to catch the Kat.

Vasag thought for a second. “Alright, I’ll help you. But if you get caught again, you keep my name out of it. Get all the information first, and don’t go rushing into anything. Got it?”

“Got it. I’ll contact you when I know more,” Valamir said before sneaking out of the shed, leaving Vasag alone in the dark.

“I think we’ve got it,” Loras exclaimed. Eznik, Mihran, Ovsanna and himself had been working with the hemsepans to figure out a quick, reliable method of learning each other’s languages.

They had come up with something that seemed to work, similar to the method used centuries ago when the interspecies language was being developed.

“Let’s give it a go then,” Mihran said, re-reading the rules of pronunciation they had devised and trying a few simple sentences.

“Hello David, my name is Mihran. How are you falling?”

David chuckled. “Good, but the last word is ‘feeling’, not ‘falling’. And I’m fine, thank you.”

Mihran nodded. “Feeling. Eee. That’s a strange sound, we don’t have anything like that.”

“We’ve noticed,” said Ryan. Everyone was speaking fairly slowly, to help prevent misunderstandings. “Let me try something in your language,” he said, consulting the rules they had.

“We are in a large house, there are six of us in this room.”

Eznik looked delighted. “That was perfect,” he said. “We can finally start learning from each other.”

They were interrupted by a knock at the door. “I’ll get it,” Ovsanna said, standing up.

She opened the door to find an elderly cetacean on the doorstep. “Hello, you must be one of Naddy’s friends. I’m her dad, I said I’d be coming round tonight. Is she about?”

“Erm, yeah, she’s in the back somewhere. Come in, I’ll go and get her,” Ovsanna said, standing back to let the old man in. “Nads, your dad’s here!” she called through the door into the back room they were using as a bedroom.

“Hi dad,” Nadalia said, sticking her head out the door. “Come through here, Ovsanna and the others are working on something in there.”

She led her father through to the back room, where most of the rebels were talking or playing games. Demile looked up when he came in. “Hey, you must be Nads’ father. Let me introduce everyone,” she said, naming everyone in the room.

“So what’s this gossip you mentioned?” Xarmen asked eagerly.
The old man sat down before starting. “I’ve found out where Korian’s family is hiding,” he announced. “His mother contacted me a couple of weeks ago, and told me Mari had been to visit and used their transmitter to get back in touch with Naddy.”

Nadalia interrupted. “How long have you been in contact with them?”

“Not long. She says Alaric’s parents are there too, they’ve all been hiding out together since Saphrax took over.” He paused as Ziazan brought him a glass of water. “Thank you dear. Anyway, she wanted me to tell you all that they’re all supporting you, and Nazeli –that’s Korian’s sister –wants to meet you sometime to help depose Saphrax.”

“Mum’s coming to help?” Drystan cried. “Can you let her know we’ll be moving out as soon as Nazar finishes fixing the weapons in the caves?”

“That’s what we need you to help with, by the way,” Nadalia told her dad. “He’s doing alright, but we need to move faster. I’ll take you down there in a minute.”

“Okay, I’ll finish my drink and we can head down.”

On the way to the caves, Nadalia explained her plan to her dad. “So do you think that would be possible?” she concluded.

“I don’t see why not,” he said thoughtfully. “It would take some time to set up, but I think I could do it. I’ll start working on it as soon as I finish helping your friend… Nazar, was it?”

“Yes. He’s somewhere in there,” Nadalia replied, stopping outside the entrance to the weapons cave. “You want me to go and find him?”

The old man shook his head. “It’s fine, I’ll find him. Give us that box, we’ll be needing lots of spare candles,” he said, taking the box of candles Nadalia had brought down. “We’ll be up later for dinner.”

Nadalia watched her father disappear into the cave, then turned and headed back up. This ought to mess up Saphrax’s precious plans, she thought. If he can send out subliminal visual messages, well so can we. Dad should be able to get control of their transmitters, with a little luck; and he can send out that video I’ve been working on. Just a simple voiceover of –what did David call it? ‘War footage’, that was it. War footage, and a voiceover telling people that this is what Saphrax is trying to incite. Should get people to side with us more openly, at least.

Levon glanced across the room. He thought he’d heard Nadalia’s radio receiver crackling. Probably nothing, he thought. I’ve been awake all night listening to the thing, I’m probably hearing things. It crackled again.

He went over to the transmitter and switched it on. “Hello? Is someone there?” he said quietly.

“Who is this?” a voice said. It sounded familiar, but Levon couldn’t quite place it yet.

“Who are you?” Levon asked.

“Someone who wants to speak to his sons,” said the voice, slurring slightly. “I want them to know I’m sorry, and if I could take back what I did I would.”

Levon waited, but the voice didn’t say anything else. He suddenly got an inkling of who it might be, and was unsure how to respond. “Is there anything else you want to say to them?” he asked. “Perhaps I can pass on a message.”

“Yes. I want them to come back to me, and meet their baby sister. She’s growing up so fast, she’s four months old already.” The voice paused, and Levon debated running to wake Nazar. “I need their help to get the rebels under control, too. I know they’ve been staying with the Thirteenth Kat, and I think they could help me out a lot. Do you know where to find them?”

Levon waited before answering. He and his brother had renounced any ties they had with Saphrax when he arranged for their mother and sister to die, but he needed a way to be absolutely certain that the voice on the radio belonged to their father. “What’s their sister’s name? I can find them for you, but I need to know who’s looking for them first,” he said, hoping it would work.

“The baby is called Viviane, I’ve told her all about her big brothers,” the voice said, the slurring more pronounced this time round. Levon didn’t stay to listen to the rest of Saphrax’s babbling, but went to wake his brother and tell him that their father was trying to get back in touch with them.

“Naz, wake up. Naz,” he whispered, nudging Nazar awake.

“What? What’s going on?” Nazar said sleepily.

Levon motioned for quiet and led him away from the other sleeping figures in the room. “It’s Saphrax. He’s on the radio trying to contact us.”

Nazar looked confused. “Why? Wait, what exactly is he saying? Does he know where we are?”

“I don’t think so, but he’s found out we’re working with Nads and the others somehow. I think he’s a bit drunk, too,” Levon replied, thinking of how slurred the voice had sounded.

Nazar cursed. “What does he want, after this long? Is he still on air?”

“I don’t know. You want to come down?”

The two of them crept back downstairs, trying not to wake anyone else. The radio had gone quiet, with nothing but static issuing from the speakers. “Obviously not,” Levon said in response to Nazar’s earlier question.

“So what else did he say?” Nazar asked, a little curious about what was going on.

Levon repeated the transmissions to his brother. “I think he just had a few drinks and started feeling sorry for himself. Or maybe it’s some devious plan to get us back on his side,” he said, remembering it was Saphrax they were talking about.

“Either way, I’m not interested,” Nazar said, shrugging. “After what he’s done to everyone, he can burn in hell for all I care. I’m going to make breakfast, the others will be waking up soon,” he said, walking into the kitchen.

A few weeks later, the rebels were in a state of high anticipation. Nazar and Nadalia’s dad had almost finished repairing the weapons, and had gone over the few Nazar had done alone. Once they were finished, they would move out and start heading towards Saphrax’s base on the island in Region Five. Nadalia was also looking forward to putting her own plan into action; she had finally finished splicing her audio with the visual, and put the resulting five-minute clip onto a disc. They were waiting for Nazar to come up from the caves when Parvona and Antrias came in.

“We have much important news for you to hear,” Antrias announced. “We have discovered the identity of the one who killed the leader Korian.”

Everyone gathered as close as they could. “Who was it?” Drystan asked.

“Saphrax gave the order, as you already are aware. The one who carried out the action was his lover, called Melicia,” Parvona said. “She placed the poison into his drink.”

Nadalia and Drystan looked at each other across the table. Now they could throw Melicia into a cell, along with Saphrax.

“You said you had much news,” Ziazan said. “What else have you found out?”

“We have found out the one you called Vasag is indeed working for Saphrax. He has no idea where you have gone, and is residing within Saphrax’s house,” Parvona said. “He has recently been contacting the disgraced enforcer Valamir, though we have not found what they talk about.”

Antrias stepped forward. “You asked us to discover the status of the prisoner Alaric,” he said. “We have found he is not killed, but has become very ill. He suffers a wasting disease, possibly caused by small food. He is cared for by another prisoner in his cell called Katayun, she is a good person.”

“Anything else? Are there any new prisoners at all?” Aleyn asked. He had recently heard that Ulfilas might have been captured, and wanted to check if his ex-band mate was being held captive.

“There have been some new additions to the cells,” Parvona replied, listing a few names. “Also, one called Ulfilas, who is captive but plans to escape soon. He is healthy, hardly questioned. We have heard Saphrax saying that he is bait, to catch friends called Ovsanna and Aleyn.”

Ovsanna pulled a face. “I guess we should have expected something like this. We’ll be able to get him out soon, along with all the others in there. Was there anything else?”

The two ants looked at each other before continuing. “One other thing, though it may be of no great importance. The lovers Saphrax and Melicia have not been friendly together for a while. From what we have heard, they have fallen out over a proposal gone wrong, and are now keeping secrets away from each other. They maintain good public appearance,” Antrias said, “but are constantly arguing with each other when they think no person can hear them.”

Rehan nodded. “Right. We might be able to use that, or at least it’ll keep them otherwise occupied.”

“We shall return there now, to keep listening for things you might find useful,” Parvona said, and they scuttled back out of the room through a gap in the window frame.

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