Date 24 July 2015.
Author Palantir
Subject Mparntwe.

The author retains copyright (2015) to this story. Reproducing this story for distribution without the author's permission is a violation of that copyright.
This story is fiction.

Thank you Nifty for the opportunity to post this story.

Mparntwe is another tale of the Terran Diaspora. Set in an earlier time to the tumultuous events of 'Attunga', it is based in Central Australia and tells the story of two young people. Jarra and Mirrigan, both with serious disabilities, both with serious abilities, who live in one of the first great underground communities and experience events which change the world.

MPARNTWE Chapter 14.


After a five kilometer walk from their campsite the group was back at the Cultural Center for their last day and, after a lot of talk with the rest of family about events on the Walkabout, Jarra and Mirri set off with the little twins who, according to Jarli, had been pestering every day about when they could see Mirri again.
Jarra took his personal carrier of course because this was the last explore they'd have at Birringurra and with it they'd be able to visit all their favorite spots. First stop was a big river red gum and because Akama thought it was so special Jarra got really adventurous and climbed to a branch where there was a good look out over the river. The twins went first with a lift to the first branch which was too high without help from a bigger person and then it became a major project because of Jarra's weak muscles and, following instructions which had to be carefully worked out for each different stage, Mirri did the real supporting and lifting.

"See the big lump? The tree keeps a secret in there."

Little Akama had his hands on a giant burl. Yes, it was Akama. The scratch on his knee was much fainter but still distinguishable. These lumpy protrusions were on many of the river gums but this one was particularly large and very distinctive in shape and Jarra rested his hand next to the tiny hand already there. Mirri joined in and covered Akama's hand with his own.

"The tree has a secret?"

Akama's idea that a tree could have a secret was a strange one and Mirri's question was to Jarra who, of course, knew the answer to everything. What to say?

"Trees are alive, Mirri, and this kind of tree can live for a long, long time."

"Yes, we saw where the blood came out."

The boys stared at Mirri.

"Mirri saw some red sap coming out of a tree and he was worried the tree was hurt because he thought it was blood."

"It is tree blood."

"Yes, it is, Mirri, and this tree is so big it might be five hundred years old, and when you've lived that long you can have all sorts of secrets."

"Do trees know things?"

"They know all sorts of things, Barega. Their roots know how to look for water and the leaves know when to face the sun and when to turn sideways if it's too hot."

"Is the secret in here for the tree or is it for someone else?"

Jarra wasn't used to seven-year-old boys and he wondered how he should answer this.

"If it's a tree secret we'll never find out, and if it's for someone else we'll only know if they tell us. That's how secrets work."

That brought three nods. Barega manoeuvred his way further out the big branch and reached for a handful of gum leaves. Jarra worried that he was too daring but from what they'd said at the base of the tree, Jarli always lifted them past the hard part and liked them climbing. When Barega crushed the leaves and started smelling them Mirri got interested and clambered out to try for himself. Jarra wasn't moving. Getting up to the boy's lookout perch was adventure enough.
A racket of raucous calls attracted his attention to a small flock of white cockatoos wheeling into the branches of a nearby gum tree.

"Look, Jarra, look!"

Akama was pointing to the expense of shallow water which was one of the reasons for climbing this special tree. A group of water birds were in a panic of flapping and distress as a large harrier coursed low and fast above them. There was a sudden stoop, a spray of feathers, and the successful hunter flapped powerfully away with its prey held securely in its talons. As if the moment of drama hadn't happened the remaining water birds resumed their activities.

"He's a good hunter, that one."

Jarra smiled. It sounded like Akama was repeating an older person's comment. Jarra and Akama watched the quieter scene together till Mirri and Barega brought the gum leaves to share the eucalyptus smell.
Barega wanted the next destination to be the paint place and since it sounded interesting everyone agreed to try that before going to the swimming spot. After negotiating the tricky descent from the tree the personal carrier did the work for Jarra and the boys while Mirri jogged along easily.


"Darri says we won't believe all the things that are happening with Yirgella."

"When did he get home?"

Darri had used the last three weeks to travel to New Zealand and Jarra had just been catching up on the Center's InterWeb.

"Two days ago and he's got lots to tell us but he's more amazed about what's been happening at Alkere."


"Yirgella's second NanoFactory has been producing solar panels for the new array and he's made giant Techbots to help install them. Darri went to watch them working and each team can have a panel installed and connected in just half an hour."

Burnu jumped on that.

"Half an hour? I don't think that's right. Our Alkere construction teams are as good as any in the world and they take half a day."

"That's what Darri said. There are nineteen bot teams working and the array is already providing energy for the materials excavation machines."

"Nineteen? That's the number of Alkere construction teams. Maybe they work together? Excuse me I'm going to look into this."

Burnu headed for the nearest InfoSystem.

"Well, you certainly surprised Burnu. What else did Darri have to say?"

"Yirgella has started a vacuum tunnel between Mparntwe and Darwin."

Now it was Baradin's turn for disbelief.

"He can't. It wouldn't just have to go through our Council. It would have to go through the Australian Overgovernment as well. Darri must have got it wrong."

Jarra didn't know what to say. Darri didn't get things wrong. Baradin took out his InfoPad and connected directly to Yirgella.

"Baradin, I hope you are enjoying your Birringurra stay. I'm enjoying the data from Jarra and Mirri's ComPatches, but you look worried? Is there some way I can help you?"

"Jarra says you've started building a vacuum tunnel between Mparntwe and Darwin?"

"Not officially. That will require a great deal of negotiation. Under the auspices of our materials project we are extracting ores along a trajectory which lends itself to conversion to a vacuum tunnel if and when it can proceed."

"I see. What's the great urgency when you still don't know the viability of the trial tunnel between Mparntwe and Alkere?"

"I am highly confident of that viability. The urgency has arisen because we are now making hardened materials faster than we can move them out. Our transport contractors have scrambled to triple their current capacity but in two months time we will have reached a backlog stage again. Beyond that the volume will increase so much that an extra transport system is the only solution."

"A travel tunnel to Darwin will take much longer than a few months to finish. ...Won't it?"

"Yes, eleven months for the excavations alone if we can dedicate all eight of our tunnelling machines, but since the energy requirements are currently too great we are pushing to complete the new Solar Array. Once that is fully online we'll be able to increase the number of machines and make a useful reduction in the completion time. The energy supplied by the new array will be a great enabler for many of our projects. When you return to Mparntwe I have several developments to share with you."

Jarra's interest pricked. Yirgella wasn't talking about the developments over the InterWeb. Maybe they were something to do with security.

"That's tomorrow. Should I make a special trip out to Alkere in the afternoon?"

"The next day would be suitable. Will Jarra be with you?"

Jarra held his hand up in acknowledgement.

"Not for four more days. Mirri and I are staying with Karmai at Monkey Mia so he can show us his Ranger work. Yirgella, there's so much happening here at the moment that I'll have to contact you again tomorrow morning before we leave for Carnarvon. I have lots of ideas I want to discuss with you."

"I will wait till then with anticipation. Is there any other business, Baradin?"

"Not at the moment. As Jarra said, there is a great deal happening here. Anything else can wait till the day after tomorrow."

Baradin turned to Jarra.

"Rest! Relax! Sleep! Off you go. At least one hour or you'll never get through the rest of the evening."

When Jarra surfaced from his rest and went to find Mirri the atmosphere in the centre was buzzing with preparation. The culmination of their stay was a full ceremonial corroboree with presentations of the traditional dances and music they'd been practising since they first arrived. Jarra had involved himself in the practices as much as he could with gentle versions of the various steps and movements. Where there was a leap he'd take a small step. Instead of rhythmic stomping he'd rock his body lightly in time. This way he'd be able to participate.

"JJ, sit here with me. Kulan will paint you."

Jarra stared. He knew from pictures and talk what went into getting ready, and they'd had great fun earlier in the day painting designs on each other with the ochre at the paint place, but the real thing was spectacular. Mirri looked like a wild man. The manhood ritual of the previous evening meant he was receiving a special treatment and almost every part of his body was covered in dramatic design with the rich, contrasting colors of the ochre. He was wearing nothing but a brief loin covering and a cluster of feathers tied in his hair and Jarra thought he looked like a warrior from the dreamtime or even a mythical Kurdaitcha man.

"Mirri, you look scary."

That made Mirri smile, which definitely put an end to the scary aspect.

"You will too, JJ. Kulan is the best painter"


Jarra should have felt strange, but because everyone else looked just as striking he felt a sense of belonging instead, and as they approached the campfire his anticipation built. Karmai was with them, looking powerful and wild, as well as the twins who stayed with Mirri like shadows, and through the leaping flames the thrum of the didgeridoos being played by a group of the Center leaders drew their attention.


Mirri rushed ahead and Jarra looked at the figure next to the didgeridoo players. The set of familiar carry bags was the first clue but it wasn't till they'd halved the distance that full recognition came. Resplendent with red and white ochre, his features flickering in the firelight and looking to the sound of his name, Jarara was waving an arm in greeting. Jarra wondered anew at Mirri's powers of observation.

"Star boy!"

"Waterfall man!"

Happy greetings followed and while Mirri proudly helped set up the soundboard Jarara explained his presence.

"Your Uncle Baradin invited me to share your special corroboree, Mirri, and I've come from Carnarvon to see you."

"Jumping music?"

"Yes, jumping music and lots of story music."

Mirri nodded knowledgeably.

"Secret music?"

"I'm not sure. What's secret music?"

Jarra wondered what Mirri would say.

"Akama's lump has a secret. Jarra will tell us the story."

"Akama's lump?"

Mystified, Jarara looked to Jarra for an explanation.

"Akama and Barega are Mirri's new friends. I don't know which is which because the scratch I use to tell is covered with ochre."

"I'm Akama./He's Akama."

"He's Barega./I'm Barega."

Jarara smiled at the simultaneous responses.

"I see. Akama has a lump and Barega has a brown feather in his hair."

The boys thought that was funny. Jarra thought it was clever because the boys were now distinguishable for the night. Jarara gave each boy a wrist clasp, which intrigued them, and as usual Barega took over.

"Akama hasn't got a lump. Our tree has a lump. Akama says there is a secret and Jarra will tell us about the secret. He tells us stories."

In the afternoon at the swimming place Jarra had been meant to follow the pattern of telling Mirri and the twins a story but he'd postponed this one till it was figured out properly in his mind.

"When the boys go to bed Mirri is coming with me to tell them a goodbye story because they helped us explore so many good places."

"Not bedtime, JJ. Akama told Jarli."

Not bedtime? There was no other time left.

"Daddy wants to hear our story."

With a few more questions Jarra learned that he was telling the story as part of the corroboree. That explained what Mirri meant when he asked Jarara if he could play secret music. Oh no. Fifty or sixty people would be listening. Jarara understood straight away. His fingers caressed the soundboard for a few seconds and a soft whispering sound mingled with the background didgeridoos.

"Is that what you mean? I will keep it very gentle so we can hear Jarra speak."

Mirri nodded his total agreement and turned to Barega and Akama.

"Jarara is the best music man in the world. He gave me a song."

Jarara shook his head and laughed then he rested a hand on Mirri's shoulder and looked very serious.

"Can I ask you something important?"

Mirri might not have seen Jarara for a long time but as evidenced by the excited greeting, he was still part of his world and a direct request meant an instant nod of agreement.

"Thank you, Mirri. I have a new song for you tonight which is so special I would like to share it with everyone else. Would that be all right?"

It wasn't even a question really because Jarara knew quite well from his stay that Mirri would happily share anything. It impressed Jarra though.

"Can JJ have a song too?"

"Of course he can. But what will it be about?... I know. We'll make it about his story and that way it will be a song for the boys too."

Mirri approved this too and he hoisted Akama into the air. He nearly perched him on his shoulder but the message that he shouldn't mess his body paint kicked in just in time.

"See, Akama. Jarara will make songs for everyone."

Barega lifted his arms so he wouldn't miss a turn then shrieked with delight when Karmai did the honors with a surprise lift from behind. A large group of people arrived and when the didgeridoos thrummed loudly in greeting Karmai pointed to a space further along where someone had placed a comfortable chair.
Jarli, Baradin and Burnu, all wearing ceremonial elders' cloaks, moved to a clear space and everything hushed for the formal welcome. When that finished the dancing part of the manhood ritual from the previous evening was repeated for the benefit of the whole gathering with extra people from the Center joining in. Jarra stayed in his chair to conserve energy for the telling of the story.
The campfire and singing and dancing times back at Mparntwe had always been wonderful for Jarra but the skills of the Center people lifted everything to a new level. The dancing was led by an expert group, the singing and chanting by an accomplished guide, and the four didgeridoo players built the atmosphere with an incredible range of sounds. Jarara added to the effect, his soundboard sometimes soft in the background, sometimes matching, and sometimes soaring loud with the benefit of his amplifying equipment. The guides from the Walkabout danced and acted out some of the events of the trip and took it in turns to explain what was happening. Mirri nearly laughed his head off when four of them became a human version of the personal carrier, with exaggerated bounces over logs and crazy swerves round obstacles with a degree of verve which would have have sent Jarra flying if he tried it for real.
After about half an hour Jarra was watching with a degree of wonder. Mirri had always loved dancing and any jumping music would have him instantly joining in, but tonight his total involvement and mimickry of the leading dancers was completely arresting.
The sound and motion stopped. Jarli touched his boys on the head and looking towards Jarra, pointed. The twins ran to Mirri then dragged him by his hands to come and sit on the sand in front of the chair. Jarra was surprised but pleased that the time for his story had come so soon. Feeling a bit out of place on the chair he sat on the sand like all the other times with the twins.

"River red gum keeps a very special secret in a very special place on his very special trunk."

Jarra's story told how the tree's secret was knowing how to eat sunshine, and the rustling of the leaves was the secret being passed from tree to tree and then described the stealing of the secret by a mischievous Willy Willy. The friendly tortoise recovered it from the bottom of a deep pool and the funny-face bird flew from the water to the tree to return the secret to its proper place in the big lump. The story became a bigger production than Jarra expected, with Jarara's soundboard breaking in and Mirri and the twins joining the dancing group to make the tree, tortoise, and bird movements then returning for the listening parts.
At the end little Akama said it was the best of all the stories Jarra had told them and Mirri nodded his agreement with this clever statement.
Jarra was quite proud because from the nods and looks he could tell the general group had enjoyed it too. After another traditional dance, food was shared round and Jarli introduced Jarara. Jarara promptly called for Mirri to stand with him.

"Near Mparntwe is a wonderful place called the Valley of the Eagles, and there young Mirrigan spoke to the King Wedgetail in words from the Dreamtime.
My music tonight is a tribute to Mirrigan and a thank you for happy times and for sharing some of the beauty of his own special world.
Ever since I met him, Mirri has been the inspiration of my work. This interpretation of one of his songs is a gift to Mirrigan but, happy spirit that he is, he wants me to share it with you.
This is Mirrigan's Eagle Song."

Into the hush of response to this heartfelt dedication came a soft skirl from the soundboard. Mirri, not quite sure why he was the center of so much fixed attention, beckoned for support and Jarra, along with the twins, moved beside him while the sound gradually strengthened. Music had become a bigger part of Jarra's life after Jarara's visit and he'd built quite a collection but none of it could compare with what he was hearing now.
Jarara could turn Mirri's voice into this? No, it wasn't turning at all, rather complementing and interpreting in musical terms.
Majesty and motion as the aerial king surveyed his domain, the rush of wind and the sense of power, the exhilaration of a stoop and the flurry of recovery, it was all there. The tempo and pitch of a lofty approach built to a crescendo of arrival then cut off completely. Into the sudden silence came Mirri's Eagle Song, amplified and astonishing, alone for twenty seconds till tones from the soundboard joined in.
For another ten minutes the music continued, growing in power and feeling till Jarra was carried away. The amplified sound rose in what Jarra interpreted as the triumphant natural whistle of an eagle, ended with a note of finality and was again replaced with Mirri's singing. Jarara was on his feet and gesturing to the new source.
Mirri, oblivious to everyone around the campfire, was providing his own finish to Jarara's music.


"I can look after them but they'll have to sleep on the floor with the rest of us. There's only one bed in my quarters and Jarra will be using that."

Everyone was getting ready to depart and the twins had been begging Jarli to let them go to Monkey Mia with Mirri and Jarra. They'd asked Mirri first and of course he'd wanted them to see dolphins with him, and Jarli's concern that his little galahs had taken over Mirri and Jarra's lives too much was getting overwhelming resistance. Karmai's offer on top of Jarra's eventually made him laugh.

"I give up. I know when I'm overruled. You can stay for one night as long as you promise to do whatever Uncle Karmai tells you."

Barega jumped on his father's lap so he could hug him around the neck and, with an assist from Jarli's somehow free arm, Akama joined him.

"Now. Who's your boss at Monkey Mia?"

"Uncle Karmai."

"And who else?"

Akama answered straight off.

"Uncle Jarra."

"And?... And?... And?"

"Uncle Mirri/Uncle Mirri."

"Good. And who's going to be very quiet and thoughtful when Uncle Jarra is resting?"

Both boys turned from their crowded positions on Jarli's lap to look at Jarra and give serious little nods. Last night they'd accompanied Mirri when all the excitement had become too much and Jarra had needed a pig ride to his bed before the Corroboree was finished.
Jarra nodded back but he was really thinking about being called 'Uncle'. Jarli must have said something to them last night or this morning because up till now he'd just been Jarra. It felt rather special.

"Run and get your day-packs while I tell Karmai all the rules you have to follow."

The twins were gone in a flash but there was no discussion of rules, just talk about what they might be doing and their pick-up arrangements.


"Hang on tight. If you fall in, the blue crabs will tug your toes and the lobsters will bite your bottom."

The twins looked rather dubiously at Karmai, but they did grip the railing tightly. Mirri wanted to know what a lobster was.

"It's like a giant yabby."

"How giant?"

Karmai held his hands apart.

"When we put our diving masks on we might see one."

Karmai was taking them on an expedition in his Ranger's boat to show them all sorts of things in Shark Bay.
Today's trip was a surprise because word had come in about a group of passing humpback whales and since they might be gone by tomorrow the adventure to see tiger sharks was now pushed back to the afternoon. And because it was in the opposite direction, the main event of visiting Karmai's dolphin pod would have to happen tomorrow.
Mirri and the twins stayed at the front of the boat like true explorers while Jarra relaxed and watched from the comfortable recliner which had been secured to the deck for him. Karmai controlled the boat and called out the name of every feature and seabird Mirri discovered.
Mirri saw the whales first, that was to be expected, and Karmai cut speed to edge closer. Five massive bodies came into view and Jarra watched in awe as one of them broached only ten meters from the boat. For nearly half an hour they shared the wonder and excitement and Jarra became convinced the whales were curious about their presence. Karmai agreed. Mirri and the twins liked the little calf, though at seven meters in length it was only little in comparison to the fifteen meters of its mother.
Jarra loved the calf too but his favorite was the really active one which kept lifting it's great tail flukes out of the water. Karmai said it was full of energy because it was a young adult. The ocean went quiet and the whales were gone. After a few minutes of expectant waiting to see one surface Karmai checked the boat's tracking instruments.

"They're on the move, Mirri. We could follow them but we mightn't see them if they stay under the water. I think we should head for the shallow water and look for the sharks."

Mirri and the boys resumed their lookout position at the prow of the boat, Jarra relaxed on his recliner again, and Karmai headed the boat for their next adventure.


The twins weren't happy about it but they stayed on the boat with Jarra while Mirri and Karmai dived to look for the lobsters which had caught Mirri's interest.

"Uncle Jarra, when will the dolphins get here?"

"I don't know, Barega. Karmai said this is one of their favourite places and they know when his boat is here."

"Do they know it's his boat? It might be a different boat."

This question was from Akama. He was always asking curious things.

"They can tell because the boat has its own sound and they can hear much better than we can."

"Where are their ears?"

"That's a very good question. They can't have ears on the outside because they have to swim fast to catch fish and outside ears would slow them down. Their ears are inside through tiny holes near their eyes but they hear with their mouths too."

Barega opened his mouth to try this strange way of listening and when Akama immediately copied him Jarra couldn't help laughing. He even joined in the 'open the mouth to listen every time someone speaks' game a couple of times till Karmai surfaced with a lobster in his thickly gloved hand. Mirri followed him onto the boat and, learning from Karmai how to hold the spiky crustacean, took charge. After his normal intense scrutiny Mirri turned to Karmai.

"Not like a big yabby."

Jarra was surprised because he thought 'big yabby' was a very good description.

"Why not, Mirri? It looks like one to me."

"A yabby has danger claws."

He was right. The yabbies they sometimes saw in the rock pools at home had very prominent pincers. Barega carefully touched one of the legs and squealed in delight when the lobster flapped its tail. He went to do it again but Mirri moved the lobster away.

"Don't scare, Barega. Can we send him home now, Karmai. He wants the water."

Karmai's answer was interrupted by a splashing sound and some very distinctive squeaks. The dolphins had arrived.


End of chapter 14.
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