The 13th Kat

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Chapter 20

“What are we doing here?” Valamir asked. “I thought we were going after the Kat, not raiding some abandoned industrial park.”

Vasag kicked a stone to distract himself from the overwhelming desire to strangle the irritating little primate next to him. “As I’ve already told you, Valamir, we are here to find the rebels. Saphrax has information that puts them in this area, and he has ordered me to check it out.”

“So why did you bring me along?”

“Because, you idiot, the Thirteenth Kat is part of the rebel alliance. If the rest of them are here, she’s likely to be with them.”

Comprehension dawned on Valamir’s face. “And you want my help when you find her. So where should we start?”

Vasag pointed. “Over there. I’ve seen a couple of shadows moving about in that little hut, it’s probably some of them. Let’s go,” he said, moving across to the small building he had indicated. “There’s someone in there, I can hear them talking. I can’t make out what they’re saying though,” he said, listening at the door.

“Well, what are we waiting for? We’ll run in there and get them, and then we can make them tell us where the rest of the rebels are.” Valamir prepared to kick the door in.

“Not yet! They might be armed, let me listen for a few minutes to see if I can figure anything out,” Vasag whispered furiously.

Inside the shed, Loras and Eznik were talking to Ryan and Lucy, practising using the hemsepans language.

“So you were part of a conservation group, Lucy?” Loras enquired.

Lucy nodded. “We were trying to get a reserve built near Birmingham –I think that would have been somewhere near your Region Four - for several endangered species, but the government weren’t interested. We had a big protest planned, but then the war started and things went a bit crazy. I think David had some idea of what was going to happen, because he started working on the suspension devices almost straight away…”

“Did you hear that?” Eznik interrupted. “Sounded like someone talking outside.”

They all stopped talking and looked at the door. Ryan stood up silently and walked across the room. He opened the door and a thin feline fell into the hut. A short, stocky gorilla stood just outside.

Vasag looked up at the strange creature above him. A second later, recognition dawned and he screamed at Valamir “Shoot it, shoot it!” He scrambled backwards away from it, not realising there were others in the room.

Suddenly confronted with a vision from ancient history, Valamir stared in shock for a few seconds before reacting. Luckily for Ryan, that gave him a few seconds to duck out of the way before Valamir fired at him. He grabbed what looked like an old bit of wood and swung at the short gorilla as he recharged his shocker pistol, catching him on the head. Valamir fell to the floor instantly.

“Come on, we need to get help,” Loras said, rushing past Ryan. “The other one’s having a heart attack or something,” he pointed back to indicate Vasag lying on the floor clutching his chest.

“Why do you want to help him? He told the gorilla to shoot us,” Ryan asked, running along behind Loras.

Loras stared in disbelief. “Is life really that cheap to you people? We can’t just let him die without at least trying to help him.”

Back in the shed, Eznik looked down at Vasag. “Finally getting your reward for turning traitor, aren’t you?” he said quietly, so Lucy wouldn’t hear. He knelt down next to the dying cat. “I think I’d better make sure they’re too late to help you.” He took a short knife out of his sleeve, where he’d been keeping it for emergencies, and on the pretence of checking Vasag’s pulse, cut open his wrist. He pressed the knife into Vasag’s other hand, and waited.

A few minutes later, Loras and Ryan returned with Nazeli and Ovsanna. “What’s happened here? There wasn’t any blood on the floor when we left,” Loras asked.

“He had a knife, when you two left he killed himself with it. There was nothing we could do to stop him,” Eznik answered. “What about the other guy, can we bring him round?”

Nazeli examined Valamir quickly. “I don’t think so. Someone’s cracked his skull open. How did he end up on the floor?”

Ryan looked sheepish. “That was me. He was shooting at us, so I hit him with something. I thought it was just a bit of rotten wood, I didn’t mean to hit him so hard,” he said.

Eznik shook his head. “I’m glad you’re on our side. I don’t know about that guy,” he said, indicating Valamir, “but this is Vasag. He’s the one who was passing information to Saphrax. I’m assuming the other one was an enforcer or something. We’d better go and tell the others, then we can bury them properly.”

Alaric blinked. “I’m feeling a lot better now. I think I could handle a proper meal rather than soup next time,” he told Mari. “Fried eggs would be nice,” he hinted.

“I’ll see what I can do,” Mari said, smiling. “You think you’ll be able to escape with everyone else? Nads and the others should be here any day now.”

“I think so. I’m sure Yuni can help me,” he said, looking over at the attractive young primate who shared his cell. “She’s been wonderful, looking after me since I got sick.”

Katayun smiled back at him. “It was no problem. I’m just glad you’re okay now, and that we’ll be getting out of here soon.”

Mari noticed the look that passed between them. “Are you two… you know, together?”

“I know inter-species relationships are usually considered weird, but yes. We’re together,” Alaric said.

Mari smiled. “Nothing weird about it. So long as you’re both happy, that’s all that matters. Besides, I’ve had a few inter-species dalliances myself,” she said, thinking of Valamir. “Anyway, I’ll leave you two in peace and see what I can do about those fried eggs.”

“And string beans. I like string beans,” Alaric called as Mari left the cell.

Melicia rushed into the office. She’d been checking on the visual equipment, and discovered something extremely disturbing.

“What’s the rush, darling?” Saphrax asked her.

Melicia took a moment to catch her breath. “The visual transmitters have been hijacked. All over the place, at least seven of the main transmitters. They’re all showing a short clip of… well, there seem to be a lot of hemsepans trying to kill each other in the video part. But the audio is the Kat, and someone else; they’re talking about how you’re trying to incite a war, and make us more like them. I don’t know how they’ve done it, I really don’t.”

Saphrax cursed. “Have someone find out what’s gone wrong, and fix it as quickly as possible. Put Vasag on it, if he’s available.”

“Vasag’s off the board at the moment. Nobody seems to know where he’s gone, and we can’t contact him,” Melicia said. “He disappeared just after he found the rebels' current hideout, along with Valamir.”

“Find them both and drag their sorry asses back here, then. I need that report on the rebels’ movements.” He thought for a second. “Hang on, what was Valamir doing with him? He’s supposed to be suspended. Never mind, have him report as well. I might as well use any information I can get.”

“I’ll send someone out to look for them now.” Melicia turned to leave. “By the way, have you decided what to do about Mari yet? I’ve had reports that she’s been spending a lot of time in the cells with Alaric.”

“I’m still thinking. It might be worth getting her back on side, she probably knows a lot of useful information now. Let me get back to you on that.” Saphrax paused. “Actually, get her on the transmitters, see if she can find out what happened. Watch her carefully though, she might know something already and try to cover it up.”

“Right, how are we going to get across with out attracting too much attention?” Nazar asked. The rebels had reached the port that would take them across to the island district in Region Five. With there being twenty of them, they made quite a large group, so they wanted to avoid suspicion as much as possible.

“Drystan, Isolde, Nads and I can swim across and wait for you on the other side,” Nazeli suggested. “That’s four less for you to worry about. If you take separate boats, that could spread us out a little. Smaller groups could pass themselves off as tourists.”

Loras nodded in agreement. “Eznik and I can take the hemsepans, we’ve already worked out a cover story for their cloaks,” he told the others. “Plus we have that private boat we came here on anyway. We can take that across.”

“We can go together,” Rehan said, indicating Levon and Nazar. “We can be on a family trip. That leaves you eight. You could go into two groups of four,” she suggested.

“Not a bad idea,” Ovsanna said. The others shuffled about into separate groups. “Let’s go then, there’s one leaving in a few minutes. Some of us can catch that one, and the rest can wait for the next one.”

“We’ll get going now,” Nadalia said, and the four cetaceans jumped into the water and started swimming. A couple of hours and three boat trips later, the rebels had all reached the island and begun looking for a place to stay for the night.

“This’ll do. It doesn’t look like the sort of place that would ask too many questions,” Nazar said, stopping in front of a rather run down hostel. “I’ll run and let the others know while you two get us some rooms,” he said, and jogged off to find the other groups. Levon and Rehan glanced at each other, and headed up the steps to the front door.

“Excuse me, we’d like to get a couple of rooms,” Levon said to the burly gorilla at the desk. “We’re here with a few friends, they should be here in a few minutes.”

The gorilla stared at them for a moment. “How many of you?” he asked in a hostile tone.

“Twenty altogether. We can share, though; we’ve been staying together for a while. We’re on a… trip,” Rehan said timidly.

“That’ll be four rooms then. Here’s the keys, you’re on the third floor.” He handed a bunch of keys to them and gestured up the stairs. “Room numbers are on the doors. I’ll send your friends up when they arrive.”

Levon and Rehan headed upstairs quickly; glad to get away from the guy. “He was a bit surly, wasn’t he?” Rehan commented as they unlocked one of the rooms. “You think he’ll report us?”

“I doubt it,” Levon replied. “People like that don’t usually like anyone prying into their business. I’m willing to bet he’s got loads of dodgy stuff going down here, he won’t be too concerned about a bunch of people staying for one night.”

Nazar led the others up shortly after. “Bloke on the desk’s got a nasty disposition, hasn’t he? I’m glad we’re only here for tonight.”

“Right everyone, we’d best get some sleep. We’ll get out of here first thing in the morning, and head into Saphrax’s base.” Nadalia unfolded a map of the district as she spoke. “Meb and her family are meeting us here, by these woods. They’ll have everything we need, then we go straight from there, through the woods to Saphrax’s base in the centre of the island. Mari and Nyneve should be waiting by the back gate for us. I’ll send them a message now.”

Everyone nodded. “Then we go with the plan,” Drystan said excitedly. “I can’t believe we’re finally doing this.”

“Get some sleep, you. It’s a long day tomorrow,” Nazeli scolded her son. “That goes for the rest of us too. Good night, everyone.”

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