Characters: Miina Awenata, Beltrann
“It is difficult to believe we’ve only been here for a week, isn’t it?” Beltrann asked Miina, as they looked around the refectory of the Huka colony. The crowd in the room was starting to thin out as the Huka finished their evening meal and began going about their remaining tasks for the day.
“Hmm?” It took a moment for Miina to catch what Beltrann had said. In her mind, she was back on the Phoenix–with Tass. She knew she could talk to him on the comlink, but it wasn’t the same as being next to him or feeling his arms around her. “Oh, yes. Yes, it is,” she agreed.
Miina and Beltrann had taken to using this time to talk and compare notes about what they’d seen that day, making sure the notes of their observations would be clear to any who would look at them, once they returned to the Phoenix.
It had been a very momentous week. They had arrived just as a new clutch of eggs were hatching, so they were witness to the arrival of a dozen new worker Huka for the colony. A scant two days later, the retired queen of the colony, called the hukanapenape, had died, and the two observers had been a part of the simple funeral rituals.
One thing that had surprised them both, as they watched the more mundane aspects of Huka life over the following few days, was the relative lack of long-distance communications. “But how do your people communicate with the other colonies that are so far away?” they had asked one evening.
“That’s why we have the Speakers,” Lani, one of their guides, had said. “They can speak to one another without words, fast as thought. The Speakers are a colony all their own, yet they send one Huka to every other colony on our world. So we are never ‘out of touch,’ as the humans say.”
The Speaker living among the Huka of the Silver Plain colony was easy to distinguish. While all the other Huka had fur in assorted shades of black, white, and brown, the Speaker’s fur was a deep forest green. As Miina and Beltrann were going over their notes, she sat at a nearby table in the refectory, sipping a cup of the lavender-like lapono brew that all the Huka seemed to favor.
Suddenly, she bolted to her feet, dropping her cup. She uttered a single shrill, keening cry, swayed, and collapsed to the floor.
At the same time, Miina, the daughter of two P-12s whose supposed absence of psychic abilities had been well documented, suddenly felt a white hot searing pain in her forehead, flashes of color blinded her, and all she could feel was dust settling around her.
Beltrann had jumped to his feet. Glancing over his shoulder, he could see that several of the Huka had run to the fallen Speaker, and at least one was looking back in his direction. He turned back at once toward his fellow Ranger. “Anla’shok Awenata,” he said, and then a moment later set his hands on her shoulders, giving her the gentlest of nudges. “Miina! Can you hear me?” he asked, speaking first in Lenn’a, then repeated more urgently in English.
She appeared to be conscious, but didn’t respond to him. “In Valen’s name,” he murmured, looking again toward the Speaker. Several Huka were already picking her up. Their guide, Lani, was hurrying toward him. “I don’t know what has happened,” she said. “We are taking Kahami to our queen, who is our best healer.”
“Will you take my friend to her, also?” Beltrann asked. “I would like to use your communications center.”
Copyright (c) 2005 Judy Caswell and Jamie Lawson. All rights reserved.