Date 2 October 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 21.

Mirri, with Yirgella's help, did a perfect job of organising their holiday equipment and now that the first day had finally arrived the pair of them, along with Baradin, Darri and most of Mirri's family, were waiting at the Vac Train terminal for Karmai and the twins to arrive.
For the last three nights Mirri had painstakingly packed and repacked his big rucksack to make sure everything he was meant to have was present and in its right place, and under Jarra's scrutiny he'd adjusted the various straps to find the most comfortable position. This was his first 'real' explorers pack, loaded with enough supplies for eight days in the wild at Gariwerd and because he was so proud he'd taken it to Alkere and on several trips around Mparntwe for 'wearing in' which was a phrase he'd learned from Jarra.
Jarra was loaded with even more and the big satchel which was designed especially to attach to the personal carrier without interfering with the twin's footrests, contained a self administering kit for the health bots he would need every second day, the thermal shelter for use if there was rain or the nights got cold, as well as all the normal clothes and supplies he would need.

"How long, JJ?"

Jarra was just as eager as Mirri to see Karmai and the twins and to get started on their adventure, and he'd been keeping a close eye on the arrival display.

"Two more minutes till the train gets here and then they have to come through the pressure portal. Who do you think will be first?"

The train was surrounded by vacuum so there was no direct platform and a pressurised tube had to lock into place before the exit doors could open. Mirri laughed. He always got this right.

"Barega will run. He wants the first hug."

"It might be different today. They'll have extra things to carry."

Mirri puzzled that through.

"... They will run and Karmai will carry things."

And, of course, Mirri was right. The portal opened and the first person to dash through was Barega and there was laughter all round when he jumped from the ground right into Mirri's arms. Akama was right behind him and because Mirri was occupied he came to Jarra.

"Uncle JJ!"

The twins were more and more a part of Jarra and Mirri's lives and there were constant get-togethers, either from Mirri's regular trips to help out with the Birringurra Corroborees, or visits to Karmai and the fascinating world of Shark Bay and Monkey Mia, and with the Vac Train trip taking only half an hour they'd occasionally turn up at Mparntwe as well. Mirri's idea that they should come on the big adventure had them almost leaping out of their skins with eagerness and the family concerns that six days of walking in bush country might be too difficult for eleven year old boys had been brushed aside with cries that they were almost twelve and that made a big difference, and if Jarra could do it so could they, and that Karmai was a proper ranger and could look after anyone in the bush. Jarra gave Akama an enthusiastic hug.

"Are you all excited and ready for our holiday?"

"Barega is like a madman. He's been driving everyone to distraction with all his comments and demands."

Distraction? That must be a description from someone else in the family. Akama could well have come up with it himself because his knowledge of words and manner of speaking was more striking than ever, but somehow it sounded more like a description from an older person. Jarra's smile and happy feelings grew at the sight of Karmai coming through the portal festooned with luggage.


Mirri rushed to greet his brother with a bone crushing hug. He hadn't seen him for two whole months which, in Mirri terms, was the same as forever.

"Explorer man. This is going to be our best adventure yet."

"We will see lights in the sky and go inside the mountain."

Karmai nodded and pointed to everyone else to let Mirri know he had other people to greet. The rest of the hugs were much gentler, except for Burnu's.
The whole group, nearly twenty people, made its way to the terminal for the Adelaide Vac train and after a multitude of hugs and well wishes the five holidaymakers entered the pressure portal and got themselves organised. Jarra's personal carrier had to be secured in a special compartment with other larger pieces of luggage.
The inter-city Vac trains were bigger then the Mparntwe to Alkere one with three seats on each side of the central aisle and Mirri took over the seating allocation when both twins wanted to sit next to him. He shook his head and put Jarra next to him, Akama on the other side of Jarra in the window seat, and Barega across the aisle with Karmai on his other side. It wasn't really a window. All you'd see would be the tunnel walls and glass couldn't be made strong enough anyway, but to make the journey more interesting a display screen with a view changing to match the above ground scene was mounted beside each wall seat. Jarra thought it was a brilliant idea.
As soon as he was buckled in he activated the small info screen on the back of the chair in front of him and found the travel data page. While Mirri was never interested in train statistics Jarra was, and making a quick check he saw that today there were 2735 people travelling in eight linked sections with a current speed of 0 km/h. On the busy east coast link between Sydney and Melbourne he knew the maximum of twelve linked sections was pretty much the norm but this seemed to be very busy for the Alice Springs to Adelaide run. The buckling up finished and when the train started Mirri made his laughs of enjoyment while the several minutes of acceleration lasted. He still called it very, very fun and indeed this prolonged acceleration was a feature which helped attract visitors to Australia from all over the world.

"Why is Mirri always so happy, Uncle Jarra?"

"We don't really know, Akama. It's a special part of him that's just there, like you always asking questions, or Barega making his pictures."

Mirri heard this of course.

"JJ makes me happy and twins make me happy and Karmai is my big brother."

"Can we fit everything on the personal carrier? It might get overloaded."

"Yirgella has redesigned it slightly so it can carry two boys and their packs as well as my satchel. You'll see when we start walking."

"Will we see a koala? I've never seen a wild one and our dad said we have to watch carefully because they live at Gariwerd."

"We hope so. Mirri and I have only seen them at the Nature Park so we'll be watching hard too."

Jarra looked at Karmai.

"I've seen lots of koalas, Akama. My ranger training took to me to places all over Australia so I could learn about all sorts of animals. There aren't very many at Gariwerd though so we'll need Mirri's eyes to see them."

Mirri and the boys nodded their agreement at this clever idea.

"Why is your new Power Supply so important, Uncle Jarra? Our dad says it's the best invention since the computer."

"Everyone's inventions are important because a new one can't happen without all the old ones making it possible, but I suppose our Power Supply is good because it will help make communities better."

"My dad says we'll only need one for all Birringurra and Carnarvon. Will that be enough to run our Nanofactories at the same time?"

"Easily. We'll just build one the right size."

"Will it be soon?"

"Yirgella says the big factory for making them will be finished when we get back from our holiday but you'll have to ask Mirri's dad for the exact date because he's in charge of all that."

"I think all the AIs will get them first. Will there be plenty of water at Gariwerd? We need it for our dried food."

Akama's barrage of questions continued with varying degrees of intensity through all three legs of the journey till Mirri's excitement at seeing the ranges of Gariwerd and then Mount Zero, their landing destination, from the windows of their chartered transport aircraft, focused everyone's silent attention. They weren't very high mountains but Jarra was intrigued because his checking had told him they were so ancient that all the height had been eroded away. After watching the aircraft depart Mirri shouldered his pack and wanted to know where to go. Karmai thought that was funny.

"Jarra isn't even on his personal carrier yet, Mirri, and the boys are drowning lizards behind that rock. Do you want to leave without them?"

"Are there lizards?"

By the time Mirri worked out what Karmai was talking about everyone was ready. Because this area was sometimes used by rock climbers there was an obvious pathway and Mirri confidently lead the way for the twenty minutes it took to reach the approach to Hollow Mountain where they were setting up camp. Jarra climbed off his personal carrier and stared at the imposing rock faces towering above. No way would he be able to get up there. Karmai and Mirri would have to lift and carry him most of the way. Never mind. Close by there were large boulders and ten meter rock formations jutting from the ground and he'd be able to use the personal carrier to explore them.

"Karmai, I think I'll have a rest and then look at all these boulders while you see the caves."

Mirri gave his checkup look and laughed.

"No tricking, JJ. We saw you resting on the aeroplane. We will help you."

Half an hour later Jarra was sitting on some soft red sand with a cavern wall sloping back over his head and taking in the panorama of odd shaped rock formations below and scrubby trees stretching into the distance. The rest he didn't need before was now imperative but the effort to get here had been completely worth it. Not his own effort. Apart from a few sections where the track temporarily levelled and he could walk for himself, all the carrying and lifting had been done by Karmai and Mirri, Karmai good heartedly groaning and insisting Jarra weighed as much as the mountains and Mirri happily following Karmai's instructions as to the best way to lift Jarra past various obstructions or carry him up steep sections. The twins had been the scouts, returning with advice about what was ahead and watching carefully at all the tricky bits.
The others were heading off to explore and right now Karmai was demonstrating to the boys how to edge their way up a three meter cleft with their backs against one rock wall and feet on the opposing face. Mirri didn't have to learn. He'd always been adept at any climbing or clambering activities.
The sounds muted and Jarra composed himself and closed his eyes. There was an hour before they needed to return. Plenty of time for a good recovery sleep.


With a full moon just rising through a gap between two of the nearby rock formations, the astounding site of the aurora australis shimmering in the sky, and the happy chatter of Mirri and the twins round their little campfire, Jarra was almost overwhelmed with pleasure and wonder. Karmai was quiet but Jarra understood that, like himself, he was appreciating the moment. The brilliance of the colors was beyond any of the examples Jarra had seen at home when he'd checked the InterWeb for information, and Yirgella's warning that the solar flare causing it all was one of the strongest for decades and very likely to interrupt their InterWeb communication, had just evidenced itself.

"Does it burn the sky, JJ?"

"No it doesn't, Mirri, but it looks like it. Your ancestors used to think it was a bad fire happening in the spirit world."

"The red lights are angry."

"They're so angry we can't talk to Yirgy till they go away."

"Are they stronger than Yirgy?"

This meant explaining the signals between satellites, the local communication towers, and their InfoPads.

"Yirgy talks to us through stations in the sky and the lights don't let them work properly, but they don't hurt Yirgy if that's what you mean."

A new curtain of red flared and shimmered across the sky and after their exclamations of wonder everyone watched silently. Karmai added a piece of wood to the fire and attention momentarily shifted to the swirl of sparks. Barega rescued his fire stick and waved the glowing end to make a pattern of after-image and when Akama followed suit Jarra mused how different forms of light were making this night special.

"Can we stay here an extra day to explore Hollow Mountain properly? We could make our holiday a bit longer."

"Yes, yes! Can we do that, uncle Jarra?"

"We could, but then we'd have to miss out on the Elephant's Hide and Wartook Waters, or rush past everything else too quickly to explore properly. If we do take an extra day here then we'll have less time in Tasmania and Mirri wants to see the quolls and the Tasmanian Devils."

Mirri's obvious agreement with the boys changed at the idea of not being able to explore properly or see new animals but then Karmai's comments about the Flat Rock and the Amphitheatre and the Taipan walls quickly restored everyone's eagerness for the next day's plans. Barega pointed out the Southern Cross and when Mirri said he liked the stars Akama took over and showed everyone a succession of constellations. Jarra was impressed.

"How do you know them all?"

"There's a telescope at Birringurra and I look at them with my dad. He thinks there are planets where different creatures live and I do too. I would love to go and explore the stars."

"Can we explore the stars, JJ?"

"No, Mirri. They're too far away and our spaceships would take hundreds of years to get there."

"Could your Power Supply make the ships go faster, Uncle Jarra? If it's strong enough to run a whole city it might be able to."

"Not really. The energy would have to be converted to thrust and the size of the ship needed would...."

Jarra broke off, startled, as he put his mind properly to Akama's query. Thrust was a primary feature of the positronic power process and one of the greatest headaches had been negating its effect. What Akama was asking for meant emphasising the effect, not negating it, and that was definitely possible.... Directing the energy with magnetic fields rather than containing it. ...Yes, there had even been theoretical designs to do just that for decades.

"Uncle Jarra?"

"JJ is thinking."

The comments worked their way through Jarra's deep concentration and he impulsively grabbed Akama's arm.

"What a question! You've just opened my eyes and I can't believe I didn't think of using our Power Supply ideas that way. You're a wonder, Akama, and when I get this worked out it will be because of you. Yirgella is going to be amazed."

"You think you can use your Power Supplies as engines for spaceships?"

That was Karmai.

"Not the Power Supplies themselves. They're designed wrongly for that but if we direct the thrust instead of containing it it should work."

Jarra lifted Akama's arm towards the shimmering lights above in a kind of victory gesture.

"An engine for a spaceship will be my new project and if I can make it work the five explorers will take a special trip."

Jarra pointed Akama's arm at the rising moon to indicate his meaning then let it go. He watched with thoughts racing then laughed at the expressions revealed by the light of the campfire. Karmai and the twins were staring at him, not the moon, and Mirri, sensing something unusual, was looking from one to the other.

"What happened, JJ?"

"I surprised everyone, Mirri. I said we can go and explore the moon."

Mirri looked up at the object in question then wanted to know if there were any animals there. Barega quickly told him there was no air then joined Akama in bombarding Jarra with more questions.

"It would be a different kind of spaceship, Akama. Space rockets have huge acceleration for their take-off then coast to get to where they're going and then have a huge deceleration to make them stop."

"Like the Vac trains?"

"Yes, but rockets are much more powerful. The engine I'm thinking about wouldn't have to coast and it would travel to places much faster."

"How long to get to the moon?"

Jarra grabbed his InfoPad.

"I don't know how strong the engines could be till I work out a lot of things with Yirgella, but if we keep it comfortable and say normal gravity strength it would be... Umm... About three and a half hours."

The answer surprised Jarra himself till the reality of constant acceleration settled in his mind, and while he gave answers to the steady flow of questions he tried again to make contact with Yirgella. The shimmering sky blocked every try.


Cozy and warm under his insulated cover, Jarra listened to the morning calls of the parrots, magpies and kookaburras and didn't want to move. Morning light brightened the top side of the thermal shelter and for a few minutes he watched its slow downwards progress and smiled at the chatter coming from the boys in the adjacent shelter. It wouldn't be long before their eagerness would have them dressed and active and everyone else would have to follow. Sure enough, the band of brightness had only descended a little further when the entrance zipper slowly opened and Akama's head peeked in.

"Would you like a hot drink, Uncle Jarra? We started the stove going and the water is heating."

His soft voice was enough to wake Mirri who immediately crawled from under the cover and reached for his clothes. How did he sleep through the loud bird sounds yet wake at Akama's muted question? Mirri gave Jarra a morning hug then shook Karmai awake. There'd be no more comfortable relaxing now. The explorer was in action.


Jarra sat up and reached for the scroggin pack hanging conveniently beside him on the personal carrier. A handful of the high-energy mixture satisfied his yen to eat and he looked for any sign of the others. There wasn't any and a time check revealed that there was still a quarter of an hour before he could expect them back. It also revealed that there was still no InterWeb connection.
After all the morning's adventures a time of rest and sleep had been more important than usual and, because it wasn't very far, Jarra had sent the others along a side track to explore the top of the range and some caves and rock features he'd noted in his trip research. For them to wait an hour and a bit while he rested was quite pointless and the twins had been particularly eager to reach the Ghost caves. With a name like that Jarra could only agree.
The view here was inspiring and he looked back where the track had taken them through the Amphitheatre, a valley which lived up to its name, and gazed at the red rock faces of the Taipan Walls.
Further away was Flat Rock, the first major feature they'd explored after they left their camping spot. Not really as flat as its name suggested, it had tested Jarra's considerable skill to manoeuvre past tricky sections and obstacles and Mirri and Karmai had needed to manhandle the personal carrier four times in places he couldn't make it go. The valley of the Amphitheatre had been particularly slow going and taken most of the morning, despite being only a couple of kilometres and the track being straightforward travelling for the personal carrier. Mirri explored every interesting feature as it presented and it seemed as if every twenty or thirty meters there would be a new rock shelf, boulder formation, cliff face or possible shelter. Karmai and the boys went with him on every little sortie and returned to listen and add to his happy report. Jarra had left his personal carrier twice, once to explore a cleft in the rocks which Mirri described as an easy cave, and again to sit beneath an overhanging wall of rock in the soft, richly colored sand which had eroded over time and gaze at the distant plain.
Baradin should be here. He loved his walks with Mirri, and Jarra wished he'd thought of persuading him to come with them.
Jarra stood up and looked at the track heading south. There was quite a way to go to reach their evening campsite and there were sure to be more interesting diversions which would slow their progress and he hoped the others wouldn't be much longer. Karmai would be conscious of the time though, and after this long away Mirri would be pushing everyone to get back too.
He looked at the clear blue sky and thought they couldn't have had a better day, then walked to a cluster of trigger plants beside the track and looked for a thin stem of grass. Karmai had shown them earlier how to tease the throat of the flower and trick the plant into thinking a little insect was looking for pollen or nectar. Jarra did this now and watched the trigger snap against the false insect. A real insect would be trapped and slowly dissolved to provide nutrients.

Two hundred kilometers above, where the blue for an observer would have changed to deepest black, a low orbit communication satellite approached the optimum position for connection with the ground relay tower at the top of Mount Zero, 4.8 kilometers by line of sight from where Jarra was kneeling. Relays clicked as external commands over-rode standard safety levels and power drained unsustainably from the storage batteries as transmission power surged higher and higher.
At almost eight times the normal maximum allowable level the amplification forced the signal through the interference from the solar flare and the tower receptors passed hastily designed data packets to the antenna of Jarra's InfoPad.
In the 2.3 seconds before the tower receptors frizzled beyond repair, seven identical modules transmitted at seven different frequencies stored themselves then tried to function. Five had been corrupted by the ongoing solar storm but the other two took control and activated the built in speakers.
Jarra, engrossed in teasing a third little trigger to snap into place, swivelled his head towards his InfoPad. Strange, he hadn't set any alarms and stranger still that the insistent beeping wasn't a sound he'd ever heard it make. Maybe it was a warning signal for some developing fault?
He moved to investigate and at three meters distance the sight of the screen flashing red changed his puzzlement to unease. The trigger plant totally forgotten, he picked up the InfoPad and touched the large action icon. The 'URGENT' label disappeared and a message appeared on the screen.

Jarra, you are in grave danger. Before you read further, move everyone from open view.

There was another action icon and Jarra understood it was a device to emphasise the need to move. Danger? Jarra automatically started to look round then realised he should be moving. Thirty seconds later the personal carrier was twenty meters down the track and parked between some head high shrubs.

Several minutes ago I monitored a conversation referring to the status of a plan for your abduction. Help is on the way but won't arrive for another seventy-six minutes.

With mounting worry Jarra read the salient points and figured the best way to follow Yirgella's directions. Where were the others? He read more, keeping an eye out, till six minutes later he heard a cooee. Oh no! The penetrating call would announce their presence to anyone in the area but at least it was close. A few minutes later Barega appeared and while Jarra was waving for attention Akama joined him. Akama saw Jarra first and when he started running Barega followed. Jarra, thinking they might call out, automatically signed for silence then felt a degree of relief at the sight of Mirri and Karmai.

"Uncle Jarra, we reached the top and it was scary. We...."

Jarra's expression registered and Barega's rush stopped abruptly. Both boys, seeing Jarra's tension, waited quietly for the few seconds it took Mirri and Karmai to arrive.

"JJ, what happened?"

Mirri knew the instant he saw Jarra that something was wrong.

"There are bad people here, Mirri, and we have to get away from them."

Four heads looked round.

"What happened?"

Karmai's question sought information rather than assurance.

"Yirgella discovered that some people are here to abduct me and we have to get away from this track."

"What is abduct?"

"It means they will take me away, Mirri. They want to make me tell them everything about our new Power Supply."

"We will stop them."

"They'll be too strong, but if we're quick and careful they won't find us. Yirgella thinks they are a small military team somewhere ahead of us and he wants us to go back the other way and hide.
Karmai, we should start moving now."

"What about our packs? Will we collect them?"

"No, help's arriving in just over an hour and they'll only slow us down."

Jarra had a thought.

"Go back and hide them though. If they're close and heard the cooees they might come looking. We'll wait for you where we have to leave the track."

Karmai ran. Jarra told the twins to jump on the back of the personal carrier then set off with Mirri trotting close behind. Karmai caught up when Jarra paused for a moment to consult the map on his InfoPad.

"Anywhere along here we have to head west."

"Through the bush? You're going to leave the personal carrier behind?"

"You and Mirri can get it through because there's another road only fifty meters away and I'll need it because it's nearly two kilometers to where we can hide properly."

The bush bash was really hard going and Jarra and the personal carrier had to be lifted or helped most of the way.
It was a relief to be off the main track though and then more relief when the twins discovered a slight deviation which allowed Jarra to drive the personal carrier for the last fifteen meters. Jarra closed his eyes for a few seconds to gather himself. Thank goodness the rest of the way was all negotiable from the comfort of his personal carrier seat. He'd explained the route as they moved, 600 meters along this Pohlners Rd, 300 meters along a joining track and then 500 meters along another old road to a rocky shelter.

"JJ needs to rest."

"Not now, Mirri. I had a big rest before and we'll soon be at the shelter."

Indeed, with the boys on the back and both Mirri and Karmai so strong and fit, the remaining 1400 meters wouldn't take much more than ten minutes.
Fifty meters along the road the world changed.


The end of chapter 21.
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