|Fluttering wren from http://wovenintheland.blogspot.com.au/|
Jeb and the others in charge send the small Totems through the airlocks. What possessed Wren to take the risk she did? Likely it's something we all have to wait to find out until the survivors meet again.
The crowds by the airlocks decrease whenever the airlock doors slide apart and people manage to clamber in. Some then help haul up those coming after them. Some encourage the incoming farther into the little room. The doors slide shut.
Breathe in … out.
“We’re down to fifty, Half Shaman Jeb.”
That could only be Shaman Thyalsene making a small joke to lighten the dark we are in. I’m the half to his whole, being only half-schooled. There’s so much I want to learn yet. I notice with a start that in his totem-alterity he’s as whole as I am, where in life he is missing an arm.
“The machine pattern is a ten-ways liar,” says someone darkly-furred and the size of a wolf. “I’ve been watching the intake rate. She closes the doors on a whim. There’s no system to her rescue.”
I don’t recall a wolf in our troop after Thayne was taken back on Lotor, and nor in Isis’s group. Only wolves I know of are the ones in the over-world Kosi told us about, and I never saw them. Is this a trojan wolf carrying the pattern?
“The pattern is teasing us,” I say, controlling my anxiety. “She probably realises we’ve been adding totem-alterities to the mix. She was a human teen of thirteen when she was converted into a machine pattern.”
“Forever an inexperienced yearling then,” the wolf says. “In a wolf-pack, she would soon be dead through her own stupidity. Here and now, it is we that die.”
So wisely said, I want to say. I don’t because I suspect this alterity to be …? What? Not a carrier of the machine pattern it sounds so denigrating. It seems to know things wolfish things like how a wolf-pack operates that she could’ve learned in totem study.
“This fighting the pattern expects to …?” Meerkat says.
I shrug. Shake my head. I don’t know.
“Thyal, can we break such a pattern?” Mongoose says.
“It was her in conflict with the Ark Ship,” I say. “She says. She hints of things that she knows about our ship that we …” I search through appropriate words, totem-alterities just will not do “… of the Old-Earth-born need to know.”
Vulture flies back in under the overhang and perches on the wolf’s head. “You thought the chief abandoned you? He wouldn’t miss this fight if you paid him,” she says.
It’s Vulture and I take her word as truth.
Uncle Puma limps into the circle. “Getting the last of them through was always going to be the problem. No way to raise the ones being the pyramid,” he says indicating a handful of people resting on the floor at the base of the righthand airlock. “Took a tumble myself,” he says shaking his leg.
“Any ideas about the fighting? The how?” He urgently asks everyone, but most particularly me.
“Keep this overhanging place for our haven and guard it,” Meerkat says.
“That’s a given,” Uncle Puma says. “Her fighting us we can deal easily.”
“She hasn’t got the life-suit anymore,” I say. “It’s a long story,” I add to his disbelief.
“Or she’ll make us fight each other,” Mongoose mumbles as though we haven’t decided that Kosi can’t hear us if she’s listening by way of sensors hidden in structural fittings.
I stare at the wolf. She/it has shouldered into our circle. With her head slightly askance and the upper ear turned toward whoever is talking, she’s listening all right.
Uncle Puma nods. “That’s one way.”
“Red-tail made it into the airlock,” Meerkat says. “Crow too.”
The left-side airlock doors slam with finality. We can have no idea what happens next in there. Go well, Red-tail. Go well, Crow. Perhaps we’ll meet again.
At the eastern airlock a cacophony of barking, yammering and whining breaks out.
I see the missing Maremma dogs. A dozen pale golden shapes leap and bite at Lithe and Limber boosting Man-of-the-Forest toward the centre airlock opening.
Wren flutters from the airlock. She jibs and jives among the dogs, taking their attention from the struggle. Half crazy, they snap and bite, managing to graze each other and the air where Wren was.
Isis wedges her feet against the half-closing doors and with an almighty effort manages to pull in Man by one of his long ape arms and a handful of his red hair. They tumble backwards and the doors slide together. Go well, Isis. Go well, Man of the Forest.
Snap! One of the dogs sports a mouthful of feathers.
Wren is taken. Ant? I don’t know.