Date 10 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 22.

Alerted by the carrying call of a cooee, three trained agents rushed to station themselves at a high point very close to Jarra's resting place. Two stayed at the commanding viewpoint while the third scouted for any signs of the quarry they knew must be close.
Traces of footprints, some vegetation flattened as if someone had been lying flat, then the glisten of a buckle through a gap in a low shrub informed the practised mind that the target group had been right here. The cooee indicated separation but the physical characteristics of their specific target meant movement from the defined track was unlikely. A look at the packs thrown helter-skelter behind the shrubs indicated haste, and quite likely abandonment and an unexpected retreat to the north. The mercenary was about to regroup with his team when the sharp crack of a projectile weapon sounded, again, and then again.


Cruel providence gave a clear view of a short section of an old road running somewhat parallel to the hiker track and movement instantly caught the eye of the watchers. The target? Yes, there was the distinctive mobility device described in the background dossier. Were the track deviations and obvious haste indications that the mission was compromised? Yes. With only seconds before the group disappeared behind a bank of trees the leader decided the transportation device must be immobilised.


Jarra had just enough time to register a strange little cry from Barega when the personal carrier jolted, swerved unaccountably sideways and sent him sprawling at the edge of the road. The shock of hitting the ground and rolling disoriented him till he sat up on and saw the personal carrier tipped on its side.
What? Had it seized or part of the wheel mechanism jammed?
Jarra looked to see if the twins were all right after their tumble. Akama was scrambling to his feet but just when the sight of Barega on the ground sent a worry signal to his brain he was shocked to feel himself lifted with incredible force, dragged, then dumped in the nearby shrubbery.

"Get off the track!"

Shocked by the imperative in Karmai's yell and momentarily puzzled by the red smear which had somehow appeared on his shirt, Jarra watched Mirri and Akama kneel beside Barega with complete disregard for Karmai's order. Karmai frightened Jarra by racing and lifting the limp body as if it was weightless and rushing everyone into the shrubbery.
With total disbelief Jarra watched Karmai, a great red blotch spreading on the arm of his shirt, gently lower Barega beside him. Mirri was the first to break the frozen moment. He lifted Barega, hugged him close and, willing life to return, rocked him back and forth as if comforting a little baby.

"Barega has gone away."

The tears welling from Mirri's eyes sent the horror of full realisation stabbing through Jarra's mind. The song of pure sadness welling from Mirri's throat, a song of love and grief for someone in his world, stabbed Jarra's very heart. It was too much. He felt himself going and fought to stay awake but all his body limits were overcome and consciousness faded.


Kind providence now blocked the view of the two hunters who paused just long enough to plan their pursuit before jogging down the track to regroup.


Mirri's cry cut off and his attention went to Jarra who'd slumped from his sitting position. He put Barega down and moved close to Jarra.

"JJ, please wake up."

"I don't think he will, Mirri. We'll have to look after him. Would you give Akama a hug while I fix my arm? He's so scared and sad he needs your help."

Akama was in shock and staring silently. For the second time Mirri's hug enveloped a young body and rocked for comfort while Karmai hastily ripped the sleeve from his shirt and bound his wounded arm. Karmai's mind worked rapidly. Exactly where the attack had come from he didn't know but most likely it was a vantage point somewhere along the walking track and time must be important. People prepared to kill simply because someone was in the path required to disable the personal carrier had to be avoided at all costs. They had to move. How to do it? Crouching low, with an eye in the direction where he feared danger, he scrambled to the personal carrier and collected Jarra's InfoPad, the first aid kit, Jarra's health machine, and several straps from the big satchel.

"Mirri, they want to take Jarra so we have to get him away from here as fast as we can. Can you carry him?"

"Pig Ride!"

"Yes, but he's not awake so we'll have to tie him on. Akama, will you help with the straps please."

Lifting Jarra's slack body into place was extraordinarily difficult and for a moment Karmai despaired. No, think it out. He was starting to worry about Akama too. He hadn't spoken one word.

"Yes! Yes! Thank you, Akama, that's perfect. We couldn't have done it without you."


Fifteen minutes later three hunters made a cursory study of the damaged personal carrier, the broken shrubbery and the traces of blood, then jogged on.


Karmai faltered, wondering if he'd be able to keep going, then, watching Mirri's steady effort, shuttered the pain and weariness away and caught up. How was Mirri doing this? Jarra, slightly taller than all of them, must be at least three times Barega's weight and a burden which Karmai knew would have beaten him after several hundred metres, yet here they were more than twice that distance with no sign of Mirri stopping for even a short rest. He was definitely struggling. The hard breathing and deep concentration which meant he was partially in his own world, showed that. No, he was caring for his JJ and at the moment nothing else mattered.
Well, if Mirri could keep going so could he. Karmai checked Akama, his small pack on his back with the vital InfoPad and other equipment, walking next to Mirri, and worried even more. He'd still hardly spoken and hadn't looked directly at his brother since they started moving and Karmai wondered if bringing Barega with them was a mistake. At the bad place his mind had said the sensible thing to do was hide him and return later but his heart wouldn't allow it.


The group leader swore. The clear footprints tracking for twenty meters past that sidetrack in the soft roadside soil had deceived them for nearly three minutes till this wind rippled patch of sand showed that no one could possibly have passed here.


"Uncle Karmai, this is where we turn off."

Karmai focused his thoughts. What was wrong with him? He'd cautioned Akama to look out for this track and now he'd nearly walked straight past. At least Akama was talking again. Relief blossomed. They were now only 200 meters from the shelter Yirgella had set as a place of safety. They'd trudged three hundred meters along the joining track, past the old quarry and battled their way a further four hundred meters with the rocky ridges slowly looming closer and closer on their left.

"Try the communication signal and see if anything happens."

Akama had the InfoPad out to check the incredibly detailed map which had arrived as part of the warning module. He'd started using it when the sight of the old quarry somehow acted as a trigger to bring him out of his shock. He'd remembered how to activate the signal Jarra had shown them as part of his instructions and tried it twice already. This signal was designed to be secure and unrecognisable to anything except properly matched equipment and didn't use the standard InfoPad transmission mode. The information module had warned that there was almost certainly some sort of extraction aircraft waiting close by and ordinary attempts at InterWeb connection might reveal their position. Akama shook his head.

"Still too soon, Uncle Karmai."

"How much time?"

"Twenty-four minutes."

He adjusted one of the straps holding Jarra secure and pointed along the track.

"This way, Uncle Mirri. Can you reach those rocks?"

"Not far. Little Pig Ride. JJ is sick."

Fifty meters further on Mirri stopped.

"JJ is sick. I want his health machine."

"Just a few more minutes, Mirri. We're nearly there."

"JJ needs it now. I want it now."

He meant it. Karmai looked at the overgrown side track on their right but dismissed it as being too obvious and pointed off the road to their left instead.

"In there. We'll hide behind those shrubs."

Karmai lowered Barega to the ground with the worried realisation that he wasn't strong enough to pick him up again. Tears came at the sight of the quiet face. Akama was helping Mirri undo the straps and the need to help them diverted the wash of emotion.

"Akama, be quick. Health machine for JJ."

Karmai saw his own startlement at the tone of demand in Mirri's voice reflected in Akama's haste to remove his pack. In seconds the complex little machine was set up, the infusion pad fixed firmly around Jarra's arm, and four different settings deftly adjusted. Karmai was amazed.

"How did you know to do all that?"

"I watch JJ. So I can care for him.
Karmai needs the bandage."

That was addressed to Akama who was holding the long bandage which had helped keep Jarra secure for the long, long Pig Ride. And indeed, Karmai did need that bandage. His arm, bare since he ripped the sleeve off, was a ghastly looking mess of dark dried blood and bright newer ooze, aggravated by constant movement.
Karmai reached for the bandage then acquiesced when Akama kept it, opened the first aid kit he'd been carrying and proceeded to carefully clean and dress his wound. Mirri watched for a few seconds then started collecting leaves and grass. JJ was asleep and needed a pillow. Karmai smiled when Mirri tenderly lifted Jarra's head to arrange the soft support.
Just as well he'd made them conceal themselves from the track because they wouldn't be moving again.
He relaxed completely when the bandage on his arm was finally pinned.
So weary.
He closed his eyes, just for a moment, then went to sleep. It wasn't sleep. It was exhaustion, the combined effect of the effort in carrying Barega for over a kilometre and the steady loss of blood through his hastily improvised bandage.
Akama saw the smile. He followed Karmai's look to Mirri's tending and understood he'd been touched by the action. Yes, Uncle Mirri would care for anyone, that long long hug would stay with him for the rest of his life, and he'd care for Uncle Jarra most of all. He finished the bandage and watched Karmai's eyes close. Was he really going to sleep now? Who would know what to do if the bad people came close? ... Sixteen minutes till the aeroplane was here. He could have a sleep then. A shake to wake him got no reaction at all.

"Uncle Mirri, I think Karmai is unconscious."

Mirri knelt for a close look.

"He is very very tired. He is like JJ."

When Mirri gathered more grass and leaves Akama knew it was now his job to think what to do. They couldn't move so making contact with the special signal was all that was left. When the operating light on the healthbot machine switched off Mirri disconnected the infusion pad then rested a hand on Jarra's hair and started one of his singing sounds. It was soft and gentle but Akama knew it had to stop and he put a finger to Mirri's lips.

"We have to keep quiet so those people don't hear us."

Mirri nodded and very seriously made not another sound. Akama activated the signal but there was no response. When Mirri returned from checking Karmai a second time and again gently held Jarra's head the gesture took on so much importance for Akama he moved to do the same with his brother. The occasional call of a nearby honey-eater went unnoticed as Akama finally allowed the horrible moments back on the road to replay in his mind. Another honey-eater call was eclipsed by a sob as he remembered the happy laugh in the ghost Cave when everyone overreacted to the scary moan. Akama remembered the trademark concentration last night with the effort of finishing a picture for Uncle Mirri and Uncle Jarra before the dusk turned to darkness, and the smile of pleasure at all the fuss when he handed it over. Uncle Mirri left Jarra and hugged him close while he cried.


Three hunters came to a halt and the leader cursed at yet another sidetrack which would have to be examined. They all agreed the most likely destination was the rocky outcrop at the end of this track where one possibility was an old shelter of some kind, but their maps also showed a small maze of rocks and other tricky concealment options. One of their quarry, probably the ranger, was using enough deception to slow their pursuit and this sidetrack could well be part of it.


Akama gathered his wits. Uncle Mirri had startled him from his misery by suddenly squeezing him tight and covering his mouth, and now they were sitting, frozen like statues while the murmur of voices came through the shrubs. Some bad words sounded clear and loud and then there was silence. Akama wondered briefly if his uncle Mirri might decide to confront the bad people and held tight to the hand which had now moved away from his mouth.
Uncle Mirri was unpredictable sometimes.
The InfoPad. Careful not to snap a twig or make any noise because silence was so important, he activated the signal. Nothing! And they were meant to be here in nine minutes. With the InfoPad next to him and holding Uncle Mirri's hand because it felt good, Akama sat quietly till Uncle Mirri knelt up and looked towards the south-west. That was scary because it was the direction he thought the bad people had gone but then he heard an engine sound.
Yes! Yes! It must be their rescue.
He activated the InfoPad but there was nothing. Uncle Mirri stood up and pointed to the sky where the rapidly swelling sound indicated an approaching aircraft. Akama grabbed him and pulled him down. There was no signal and their help should come from the east.

"Bad people, Uncle Mirri."

With mounting fear Akama watched the helicopter type aircraft position itself almost directly above then start a steady descent.


Yet again the team leader swore. The communication device on his wrist was beeping with the emergency abort signal. This lucrative mission was now compromised for some reason and they had minutes only to reach a suitable pickup position or face abandonment. The sound of their base aircraft coming from behind the rocky outcrop was big trouble because the use of the abort signal, and now their homing devices, meant the fundamental mission rule against use of any electronics was broken. He pointed back along the track and, at the appearance of the aircraft overhead, started running. That last intersection had a cleared area beside it large enough for a touchdown. Two minutes later, barely above treetop level, they were racing to the south-west.


The noise and throb of nearby engines renewed Akama's fear. The aircraft must have seen them and was landing to come after them. What to do?

"Uncle Mirri! Carry Uncle Jarra with you and hide him then come back for Karmai."

Mirri nodded his understanding and started to lift Jarra but when the thunder of the engines abruptly built powerfully then started to recede, he looked for more guidance.

"It's gone, Uncle Mirri, so we'll stay here. I think it must have come to meet the bad men. Listen really hard in case anyone is still here."

Mirri made Jarra comfortable with his head resting on the grass and leaves again then stood up to follow Akama's clever idea. Akama checked the InfoPad then rushed to show Mirri the blinking blue light.

"The good people must be close, Uncle Mirri. I think they frightened the bad ones away."

He pointed to the east.

"That's where they'll come from."

Akama watched the Stapylton Range with Mirri, willing their help to appear. The signal was flashing steadily so surely it must be close. He looked down at Karmai and Uncle Jarra, hoping they'd be all right for just a little longer, and then at the still form of his brother with his head and shoulders covered by a jacket. The alarm calls of a dozen nearby honey-eaters was swallowed by the powerful rumble of five military aircraft sweeping suddenly from behind the range.


Pinpointed by the signal from the InfoPad, sent to Melbourne by military strength transmission and then to Central Australia by data cable, the first enhanced image from the high resolution aircraft equipment sent shock and dread through the people gathered in the Alkere Security centre. One of the twins and Mirri were standing, waving, but the other three were supine, still, and unreactive to the commotion above. Baradin took in the jacket covering the face of the small body and understood what it meant even before Yirgella.

"No! No! We were too late."

There was silence. Silence which lasted for almost eight seconds. Silence of disbelief and need for understanding. A silence which saw Yirgella initiate a multitude of actions.
Now fully linked with Jarra's InfoPad by close proximity he sent commands to all five ComPatches, gathered, received and examined each record.
He designated the receding radar image as a priority for pursuit and capture, passed all the information through their underground links to the other Australian AIs, and alerted Jarra's already forewarned doctor that his assistance might be critical.
Ten NanoFactories temporarily ceased all action while the five AIs combined their resources to send signals through the cable networks of the InterWeb and close down every factory run by Earth's third largest Corporation.

"I am deeply concerned for the physical condition of both Karmai and Jarra and medical attention will be with them in moments. Karmai has a wound in his upper right arm and has apparently passed out from exhaustion and the loss of blood before Akama dressed his wound securely. Jarra's body closed down when the shock of Barega's death overwhelmed his already heightened stress levels.
Burnu and Baradin, your nephew, Barega, was killed by a projectile. Information from the ComPatches indicates he was in the trajectory needed to disable the personal carrier and the action was taken without regard for his life."

Burnu responded first and spoke into the deep silence.

"You mean he was killed just because he was in the way?"

"My best reconstruction leads me to that conclusion."

An angry murmur ran round the room.

"Does my brother know what has happened?"

"Not yet. I believe it is fitting for family to convey such news."

Baradin looked at Burnu then nodded with apprehension and left the room to find a private link. Darri watched him leave then looked at the display screen where one of the aircraft was in the process of landing at the same cleared area which had been used minutes before.

"Are we going to catch these people?"

"With certainty. Two of our aircraft have a strong radar lock and will be able to take action in just over four minutes. I have disabled the Corporation directly involved and others will follow when we gather direct evidence."

No one said anything because their attention was riveted on the screen where four people were sprinting along the track, followed by two more with big loads of equipment.


When the noise from the landing aircraft lessened a voice called from the ground near Akama's foot.

"Akama! Mirrigan! Can you hear me?"

Akama pounced on the InfoPad and held it towards Mirri. He recognised that voice from many discussions.

"It's Yirgella."


"Hello, Mirri. Hello, Akama. You have been very, very brave and the people from the aeroplane which just landed are here to help. Here is someone who wants to speak to you."


"Daddy! ..."

Akama watched his Uncle Mirri burst into tears.

"Daddy! The bad people hurt Barega and Karmai and JJ is very sick. I don't like bad people."

"We don't like them either and we are bringing you all home. Mirri, would you give Akama a hug for us? He is very sad and everyone is worried about him."


The gathering in the Alkere Security Center watched the rescue, the medical attention, the transfer to the waiting aircraft and the take-off for the rushed trip to Adelaide.
Karmai was given a plasma transfusion and under his doctor's supervision Jarra was reattached for monitoring by his health machine.
Akama spoke with his family.
Yirgella passed on the information that Karmai would be sedated for the trip to Adelaide but then awake and watched by a doctor for the twenty-one minute Vac train trip to Mparntwe.
Jarra would stay asleep for another ten or twelve hours and according to the readings from his health machine was relatively stable.
The image on the main screen shifted to the short lived resistance by the fleeing aircraft where a short burst of desperate defensive firing was cut off by a carefully targeted shot from one of the heavily armed military pursuers and a landing forced. While this was happening the security room crowded with the arrival of most of the Mparntwe Council.

"Welcome Councillors. We are watching the capture of the team which was sent to kidnap Jarra but now that you have arrived I will present the course of events I have reconstructed from ComPatch data.
You will be distressed by the callous brutality but profoundly affected by the courage of Burnu's sons and the presence of mind of Jarra and little Akama."

Heads turned everywhere to look at Burnu then turned again to the display where Mirri's laugh sounded and flames from a little campfire danced merrily. The glory of the aurora showed briefly, followed by Akama's spaceship question then Jarra pointing Akama's arm to the sky and promising of a trip to the moon. The scene changed for a few seconds to laughter inside the ghost Cave then focussed on the close-up view of the trigger plant being teased then the hasty actions after a beeping sound intruded. The gathering watched parts of the difficult progress through fifty meters of bush with the personal carrier, Jarra's continual instructions of where to go and what to do, the relief at setting off along Pohlners road, and the shocking moment when tragedy struck.
When Mirri's song of sadness filled the room Baradin collapsed in the nearest chair while everyone else struggled with the loss it conveyed.
Baradin, Burnu and Darri brought the reconstruction to a halt when they cried aloud at Mirri's avowel to carry Jarra in a Pig Ride, and a shaken Baradin explained its meaning to the gathering before Yirgella continued.
Disbelief and wonder built at the sight of Mirri single-mindedly trudging on and on while Karmai battled exhaustion and worry with his own sad burden.
A murmur of appreciation grew when eleven year old Akama so competently cleaned and dressed Karmai's wound. Kyrra said later he was about to start clapping when Karmai's pale face smiling at Mirri's tenderness took his breath away.
The reconstruction finished and the heavy silence in the Security Center lasted till Baradin stirred in his chair, placed a hand on Burnu's shoulder in a gesture of support, then stood to face the quiet watchers.

"Before I speak, can we all stand quietly for Akama and his family.
....Friends, we have just seen barbarity and callousness countered by acts of care and determination which will remain always with us.
Greed and the reach of powerful nations has been thwarted by the same elements which have changed the course of not only our community, but in all probability that of human civilisation.
The young man who brought Yirgella to our community lies asleep and safe because of the efforts of his friends.
The brilliant mind we just heard offering the world a new way to travel through space rests secure through an act of pure care and indomitable will. A Pig Ride, Mirrigan's own term, over that distance defies understanding, yet he didn't falter and somehow still had the strength at the end to care for everyone round him. Akama's twin brother has been taken by those same forces of greed and power which have assaulted us in the past and I believe you are with me in saying enough is enough.
At the soonest opportunity I am calling an emergency meeting with Yirgella to develop our active response.
Mparntwe honors your sons, Burnu, and their actions today will always be treasured by our Community.
Yirgella, once again you have our gratitude. Without your assistance and actions the outcome of today's events doesn't bear thinking about."

Baradin paused and glanced at a sub-screen on the display which showed the interior of the single section Vac train which had been commandeered for the journey between Adelaide and Mparntwe.

"Councillors, we will officially meet this train to support our own and our friends from Birringurra.
Yirgella, do you know what happens when the train arrives?"

"At his doctors insistence Jarra will be brought straight to his dedicated medical facility here at Alkere. Mirrigan won't be parted from him and Karmai and Akama say they want to stay with him as well. Akama's family has arrived at Mparntwe and will accompany him here to Alkere."

Baradin nodded thoughtfully, asked Yirgella to invite anyone involved with either Jarra or Mirrigan to gather at the Mparntwe Vac train terminal, then led the way from the Security Center.


Jarra was first to leave the Vac train through the pressure portal but knew nothing because he was asleep on a stretcher trolley. Karmai and Mirri, following close behind with Akama between them, paused in startlement at the size of the waiting crowd. Closest of all were the two families who watched silently while Jarra was wheeled past and towards the Alkere terminal then swamped the trio. The muted nature of the welcome paused when Mirri's laugh sounded loud and clear. His youngest sister surprised him with an excited sibling punch to the chest.
The happy sound lightened the atmosphere only briefly though because Burnu and Baradin motioned for Akama's family to lead the way to the Mparntwe-Alkere terminal and the hush of respect fell as mother, father, and now, only son, walked past. Karmai told Jarra later that watching Akama walk, almost proudly, with supporting arms across his shoulders was the saddest thing he'd ever seen.


"How much do we know?"

The full Council and Yirgella were meeting in a small Alkere Conference room with Baradin taking unusually forceful leadership.

"Not a great deal as yet. The captured mercenaries are on the way to a military facility at Canberra for interrogation and examination but we expect they will have little knowledge of who hired and trained them. An altered mind state probe will possibly help us find some of their training locations and the pilot in particular should have vital information."

"What is an altered mind state probe?"

"It's a military interrogation technique, Kyrra, which uses a combination of biochemicals and limited sensory deprivation to induce a highly suggestible mind state."

"A form of hypnotism?"

"In essence, yes, but much more powerful and reliable. The pilot, for example, will describe in great detail every moment where his mind is directed, and since he was especially trained to fly without electronic assistance his observations will be very extensive."

"Does the subject's mind get damaged?"

"There is low risk for single or short-term sessions but increased usage increases that risk greatly. Our OverGovernment sanctions limited use when National Security is involved."

"Canberra regards this attack as a matter of National Security?"

"Of course. Kyrra, I have digressed with this explanation because you should know that the altered mind state is the most effective method for extracting great amounts of accurate and detailed information from an uncooperative mind."

Yirgella paused long enough for the implication to sink in.

"The captured aircraft will arrive at Alkere tomorrow and careful examination should give us enough information to trace the origin of various components. We currently have direct evidence against two individuals and their Corporation but our net will spread. Within three weeks we expect to identify most of this elaborate plan to gain control of Jarra's Power Supply."

"You said earlier that you disabled the Corporation. What does that mean?"

"Their every source of production and its management has been closed down and I have since transferred all the financial reserves to shareholders as some recompense for the total collapse which will follow."

Burnu, with his management background, understood the enormity of that statement before anyone else.

"Total?... Yirgella, it's one of the largest Corporations on the planet. You can do that?"

"It's already been done. ...Unless you wish to countermand my action."

Baradin recalled an earlier time when he'd told the council Jarra had released the genie from the bottle.

"No, Yirgella. I applaud your action. Their contempt for life and law has so far brought little consequence and I believe we support the similar collapse of any other Corporation which proves to have been involved. After the last attack the force of International law meant almost nothing to them and without a stronger response they will continue to act from behind their barriers of influence and sovereignty."

One of the Finance Councillors jumped to his feet.

"Baradin, I support Yirgella's action, any corporation which condones the murder of a child deserves no sympathy, but what will happen to the World economy? These Corporations are so large that the collapse of even one will be a major shock. More could start a World crisis."

Yigella responded.

"Seven Multinational Corporations were involved in the previous attack but we have indications that two of them took heed of your negotiations with their representatives. Current probability suggests at least four Corporations with various degrees of involvement and five large Nation States. My simulations predict a major crisis with a recovery period of four months."

Kyrra took the floor.

"What can we do about the Nation States? We don't want to affect ordinary people."

Baradin made an abrupt gesture with both arms.

"Yes we do! Today the happiest spirit I know sang the saddest song I have ever heard, a song which will affect any who hear it."

Baradin's voice lifted and strengthened.

"We will show the world.
We will name those who sanction the death and abduction of child or man.
We will shame these people with the truth.
We will fight them with a Pig Ride and a Song."

The Council rose to their feet with full affirmation and some puzzlement.


The end of chapter 22.
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