In My Fathers Eyes:
“In league with the devil I tell you, in league with evil incarnate,” Jedediah said or ranted to his son Aaron as they turned inland heading for the pickup point where the Liberty City colonists had left the weapon supplies.
“In more ways than one father, but we are free of the serpent in our midst. When I confronted Edwards with the truth of his perfidy he laughed then turned his back and rode off in the direction of the Rogon camp. Aram, Ephraim, and Joseph went with him. The rest obeyed my commands. I think now I might have ordered those with me them to give chase but at the time I was not so sure where everyone’s loyalties lay.”
“Take not the council of your fears, the Lord will provide; and the provision of weapons was certainly unexpected. I see you are not carrying a rifle yourself my son. Why is that?”
“The Lord is my strength and my shield. I need naught else. Sister Martha has taken to riding with me since Edwards left and in any case; she is armed enough for the both of us. Have you spoken yet again with those we left behind?”
“I have not. Joseph Fortson, who is speaking for them, said that communications would be limited unless and until we come under attack. The landing party that left us the guns also he says left behind two robots. He did not tell me where they are; only that they are somewhere up ahead of us. They are to act as forward observers but are not under our direction. We shall trust in the Lord and all will be as he desires.”
* * *
Standing outside of the milling herd, no it was a crowd, herd was used for animals, Sister Martha watched as the two large Tulari, Enoch, and Belsethar, as they began passing out the rifles to the waiting Tulari. Each Llama next went to either Hosham or Micah and in seconds received all the training they would get in one mental transfer. After all the guns were passed out and over the next few days Marty would visit the rapidly dispersing groups and make sure that each one of them fired enough rounds to zero-in the rifles. It had been a very pleasant surprise when she saw that the Agorans, Marty could not bring herself to think of them as Aarons, with their four footed stance and stability were amazingly good shots.
The combined tribes, Agorah, Tulari, Richirty and now Piridem, the first of whose members had just arrived, were going to keep marching towards the Rogon camp all the while and She would travel with Aaron and Jedediah; acting as their voice when required. They were sill at least three weeks from reaching the landed party but contact could happen at any time. With Edwards gone, and that was all to the good, the ‘Generalship’, from the human side at least, had fallen on her shoulders. How very, very, strange. ‘Martha the Warrior Princess’, no that wasn’t right, ‘Martha the servant of the Lord’.
* * *
Cotton Edwards was traveling as rapidly as he could manage, so much so that his wife was suffering visibly. She said nothing but the hour upon hour of walk then ride with scant rest had dulled her perception. Even the three Soessossins traveling with them were showing the strain. Helen had given up asking any questions or even talking to her husband, it was too much effort. Cotton had said they would reach the Rogon camp in a week, and from time to time he would say they were still on track. He made no effort to conceal his contact with the Rogon/UN force any longer. He had been assured the humans back in Liberty city were no longer a threat. He was sorely puzzled by the fact that he had to make the march at all and that a shuttle was not just sent transport his party to the camp in minutes rather than the days it was taking.
RoDan and R. JP, sheltered in the tall grass of a hillside watched the party of five pass. They followed for a day until it was certain that the destination was the Rogon camp. While Edwards was still approaching them the bots had picked up the fringes of the directed com signals. Now, with the party beyond them that was no longer possible. But it wasn’t very important either. Most of the communication was one way; Edwards telling all he knew about the Levitican and Soessossin plan with no information going in the other direction.
In the Cave and in the Stuart Compound the infrequent signals, relayed whenever the moon Carter was in a favorable position, were monitored around the clock.
“I almost wish I were there,” JJ Parker said.
“Sure ya do,” Joe Fortson replied. “You got ‘Hero’ written all over you.”
JJ’s face reddened and he answered, “You’re right Joe, I’m not all that much younger than you. The both of us are too old for that kind of thing. The waiting is what is getting to me and I’m not the only one. The Rogons must know all about these caves by now, what with Buchanan telling all. Is there anyway we can move from here to a new location that is secret?
“Not much chance of that JJ. Whatever is going to happen it will play out one way or another long before we could find and rebuild in another place. If I were you I‘d be getting with the prisoners and trying to learn a little Rogon. No matter how this turns out it could be of use.”
“What are you going to tell the Jeep and RoDan to do?”
“I just sent word for them to fall back towards the Levitican main party and to stay about a day ahead of their travel but make sure and stay out of sight. When we see what the Rogons and UN decide to do we can figure what comes next.”
* * *
Ten days since the march began and the tribes were almost all in place. Aaron no longer spent all of his time reinforcing the faith of the recent converts. He spoke mostly to his inner circle and they spread the word. His mother and sister were being raised to near deity level as the Soessossins interpreted and reinterpreted all that Aaron or his father Jedediah said and mixed it into their understanding of the biblical text. According to his father heresies abounded and Jedediah was free in condemnation and correction. Aaron’s approach was much milder and in tune with the gentle creatures nature. Or it had been; but the continual search for dietary protein that fueled the march was turning the once pacifistic creatures into something much closer to an angry mob.
The colonists at Liberty City, from time to time, contacted Jedediah and advised that they give up the march to the Rogon camp and scatter into the wilderness. When his father spoke to Aaron concerning the matter, Aaron had mildly rebuked him saying, “We are of the Lord and he is of us. Our faith is both our armor and sword and whomsoever shall stand in our way shall perish thereby.” Jedediah accepted the words, though reluctantly. For the Soessossins they became a prophesy and battle cry.
Communications with Liberty, however infrequent, would give some warning should the Rogons chose to do anything but wait for their arrival.
As everyone else in the group was drawing deeper and deeper into the religious fervor, Sister Martha was beginning to have doubts. She had traveled with Aaron whenever he went away from the main group and saw how much the Llamas were changing. That was something that was easier to do when contrasting the new converts with the Agoran who had been with them from the start. It seemed to her that the Soessossins were no longer out for salvation but out for blood. There was nobody to talk to about this, Sister Ruth was too young and Jedediah’s wife Miriam was a captive to her faith or perhaps in thrall to both her husband and son. Doubts and all, she had no out, so would make the best of it.
“The Yelsig may be useless but they will accompany you Shintok; petok-S,” said Jaric; tilmer-N. “Our Overmaster has so demanded. I have spent much time reading and researching the military histories of these Humans and there is a term they refer to which covers this situation. Such soldiers are called ‘Cannon Fodder’; a wave of ineffective troops that both distracts and attempts to overrun an opposing force. They are not expected to survive nor are they trained in military virtue and tactics. They also need no motivation beyond the fact that should they fail to advance, or when engaged flee to the rear, they will be shot by the forces behind driving them forward. Ineffective they may be but the cost of using them is nonexistent.”
“You will take no time investigating for mineral deposits until all of the clients of the Chewpess are subjugated. Upon expeditious completion of your mission your reward will be commensurate with its success.”
“Submaster-tilmer, I claim no special knowledge concerning the strength of these slaves to be, but would not it be advisable to use the Dragon’s Head to end this thing at once?”
“Obey Must! Policy is not for such as you! You will take the Edwards creature with you but no other Humans, your masters find reason to question their subservience. You will take also your underlings and in particular elron-A and his broodmates argo and teth and the damaged huk, I find they annoy me. You will remember that a live slave is more valuable than a dead slave and conduct yourself accordingly and as directed!” Jaric; tilmer-N gave not a second glance to Shintok; petok-S as he walked away from the lesser Rogon. Appearances must be maintained.
“They’ve sent out a force,” Subbu Akai said to Fortson and Reye who were waiting to see the latest download from Rocco from his tent up on the moon Carter. All Rogon, no UN people in view. Can’t tell exactly how long ago but when I get the speed of the march calculated I’ll let you know. Must have been a few hours ago anyway.”
“Any vehicles?” Fortson asked.
“Only a couple of skimmers that I can locate and they are off to the sides. Think they are herding in the Yelsig and trying to get them out front. Yes that’s it. Sabbu said that after fast forwarding ahead in the data stream. I see a few Yelsig bodies down and on the ground. Looks like it took a bit of convincing to get them moving.”
Les Reye spoke up, “If the Guardians are ever going to interfere now is the time. I am at a loss to explain why they are waiting.”
“Not our problem,” Fortson said. “Les could you put out a call for some of our military brain trust and we can try and work out their intentions and figure what to tell Dobswell and where to send the bot’s”
Reye sent a query… “Andy is with Bart and Connor at the castle. Let’s send them the download and then we’ll see.”
“Give it another day,” Andy said. “Until we know the rate of advance we don’t know where they meet. But we should give Dobswell a heads up and show him the best spot we can find for him to make a stand. He sure as hell can‘t go up against them in a set piece battle. Hell he can‘t go up against them in any fashion and expect to win against competent leadership. But the Rogons thus far haven‘t shown much of that now have they?”
Progress reports made after Carter completed two more orbits showed the two groups would meet on a vast open plain in six more days. That was the kind of terrain Dobswell needed to avoid if he were to have any kind of a chance. Fortson sent a brief message advising of the fact and suggesting they halt their advance while still in the foothills the plain abutted.
Looking at the downloaded views they saw a likely spot just before the Levitican led Soessossins would breakout into the flatlands. It was nicely hilled and partially forested with a small river running through from east to west. The river came from deeper inside the continent and was fed by mountain snow runoff. Just as it broke out of the hilly land it fed what looked to be a large impact crater forming a lake just beyond the point where they advised Dobswell to stop. It took some convincing but finally Dobswell agreed that he would halt just before he reached the plain and lake and prepare for battle there instead of rushing madly onwards.
Joe directed RoDan and the Jeep take up positions on either side of and in front of Dobswell. They would have a somewhat distant, but with their advanced optics, still ringside seat for the coming engagement.