Getting Ready to Attack
Frowning, Morgan watched the Eshnat-class assault shuttle touch down whisper-quiet in the courtyard. For all its stealth, it was still a dramatic show of force.
A team of fellow Rangers followed Darquin across the courtyard, into the House of the Guardians. There were more out of sight, scouting around and taking positions. Darquin was taking in the sight of busy Huka sitting on large cushions all around the wide chamber, when Morgan and Daanike met the security team.
“Quite an entrance,” Morgan said.
Darquin matched her grin, taking off his duster. “Got dressed for the occasion and everything.”
The Huka Gahara was talking with a pair of her sisters who had just arrived. She turned toward the humans and Minbari. “My sisters have been canvassing the buildings near the spaceport. They have located one inhabited by at least one Gaim. They just saw a Drazi entering as well.”
“Did anyone identify the Gaim or the Drazi?” Darquin said.
The black-furred Huka conferred quickly with her sisters. “We do not know the Gaim. But the Drazi my sisters saw matched the description of Baz’hak, the one we have been seeking.”
Darquin nodded half to himself. “If we get to Baz’hak first, he can give us the layout.”
“Tell me about the area,” Morgan said.
“There are several streets of small buildings that offworlders rent during their stay here. Only about half of them are occupied at any given time.”
“Does that building have a junction box? For power or data traffic?” Darquin asked.
“If there is not one on that building, there should be one at the end of each street. Each street has about six houses.”
“I’ll get two people on it,” he said to Morgan, passing out of earshot.
Morgan looked at Gahara. “Anything else?”
“Two of my sisters are still watching. One will report if they see anyone else entering or leaving.”
“Da. Thank you, and your sisters.”
“What are you planning?” Gahara asked.
“I think Mr Darquin has two steps in mind. Get the hostage out of harm’s way, then deal with the rest. Simple, ie?” She bared her teeth at the Huka.
“That makes sense,” Gahara replied. “When do we set out?”
Darquin came back wearing a murmuring earpiece. “Okay, we’re listening for comm traffic now.”
Gahara nodded. “Thank you. Between that and my sisters watching on the outside, it will be hard for them to do anything without us knowing.”
Morgan gave Gahara a look, but chose not to argue. “Do we need anything else?”
“Heads to crack.” At Gahara’s confused glance, he added, “I mean, we’re ready.”
“Then perhaps we should get started,” Gahara said.
“Ie, quickly. I do not like wasting time in this.”
“Amen to that.” Darquin was already heading for the ornately carved front door. “I’m with the roof assault. Kriechbaum’s gotta be high up where he can’t reach the street.”
Morgan followed. “With buildings of this type, I would agree.”
Gahara was crossing the courtyard with them. “Do you want someone on the lower floor, to draw attention, perhaps?”
“Not at first,” Darquin said. “We need people inside and ready before we make a move the Gaim can see!”
She nodded. “Plenty of tactics I still need to learn,” she said. “Forgive me.”
“It’s all right, ma’am. We’re doing something special. If they’re gonna mess with us, it’s time to scare the spoo out of ’em….”
Morgan had her mouth open to answer, but had to cover a snort at his phrasing.
It took Gahara a moment to consider the exact words. “I would have to agree. We Huka are a very non-aggressive people … but we have to make it clear we will not be taken advantage of.”
“It sounds better your way.” He let his smirk fade away while he consulted his earpiece. “Boss, they need me up front.”
“Go,” she agreed. “Safely. I want to answer no questions after.”
In a small, bare room, Eddie Kriechbaum had managed to work himself into a sitting position. The ropes holding him were primitive, and the way he’d been enveloped made him feel a little like he was cocooned.
But the most annoying thing was what would happen whenever he got out of there. Brenda was going to kill him. And she’d only be at the head of a really long line.
The door behind him swung open like a lopsided boarding ramp. Huka doors were big enough to pass for double doors anywhere Eddie had ever been to. He straightened up, pushing his back hard against the wall.
Human shapes charged in. At first it was hard to tell whether they were Gaim or Drazi. Then he felt air flutter over his face. “Hey… the cavalry,” he said, forcing the words out through a mouth too long without water.
After a flashing of hand signals, a gentle hiss cut through his bonds. A familiar voice hung at his shoulder — Darquin. “Can you move?”
He pushed himself up. “Yeah. Balance is shot, but once the circulation gets going …”
“Easy,” Morgan said. “Do not injure yourself.”
“How many,” Darquin asked him.
“Three. Two Gaim, one Drazi. Only one of the Gaim goes out.”
“Okay, wake them arms up.” Darquin moved into his view, patting both of Eddie’s shoulders as if to help. “You and I are going after your fighting pike.”
Eddie nodded, raising his arms above his head and shaking them, grimacing with the pain of returning circulation. “Right.”
A blur of black Huka fur and polished shell bounded into the room. “Morgan.”
“The Drazi is coming up the stairs,” she said softly.
“With their hides, I hope you got a hard fist,” Darquin grinned.
“He shot at us,” Morgan added.
Gahara shifted her grip on the metal-bound staff she was carrying. “I remember it,” she said, her voice low and growling.
Darquin took a step back. “He’s popular, whoever he is….”
Gahara flattened herself against the wall next to the door. Still trying to shake his arms out, Eddie followed suit, while Morgan moved to the other side of the door, to wait. Darquin crouched into a shadow, holding his folded pike ready.
The door rebounded on its hinges about an inch from Gahara’s face as the Drazi, a heavy, metal-spiked club in one hand, strode in, looking for Eddie. Darquin extended his pike and lashed at the Drazi’s weapon hand, rolling away to draw his attention. Gahara crouched and swung her staff low, sweeping the Drazi off his feet. With an inarticulate roar of rage, the Drazi hit the floor, the club dropping out of his numbed hand.
Morgan stepped toward him as well, extending her pike to hold him where he fell. Then she drew her lips back, showing her teeth. “Hello.”
The Drazi moved, ready to charge. She planted the tip of her pike in his throat for one excruciating, memorable second. By the time he looked up again, several hand signs and a few comm signals had already brought teams of Rangers into the building.
Darquin squinted. “Wait, you’re Baz’hak?!”
The Drazi’s small eyes opened almost impossibly wide. “Baz’hak,” he agreed, nodding.
“You just came from the Abbai system?”
Baz’hak nodded with greater enthusiasm.
Darquin snickered despite himself. “I didn’t beat the bejeezus outta you and 17 of your pals a few months ago, did I?”
Baz’hak seemed to shrink, gaping with recognition. “Tornado.”
“My name isn’t that hard to pronounce.”
“It is, but he did not even try.” Morgan leaned harder on her pike.
Baz’hak gagged, unable to keep his thick voice steady. “What…you want…”
“Haven’t decided,” Darquin said. “Either tell us the truth or we twist off your head.”
The Drazi’s eyes flickered around, taking in Morgan, Kriechbaum, finally settling on Darquin. Gasping, he couldn’t nod his leathery head fast enough.
“We ask.” Darquin included Morgan and Gahara with a wave. “You tell. Like how many of you there are. Who you’re working for.”
“Gaim. Two. One is ….” He struggled to find a word. “Chemist. Other Gaim talks.”
“What does he talk about?”
“Getting plants. Make drug for fur-shells. They sell to other fur-shells.”
Darquin glanced up at Gahara. “You mean Huka, like her?”
He nodded quickly.
Gahara came closer. “The ones the Anla’shok and I –” she pointed to Morgan — “were talking to today?”
The Huka hissed outright, ears flattened against her head, lingering before she stalked off to the other end of the room.
“Sucks to be you, Baz. They’re omnivores,” Darquin added with relish. “And she’s pissed.”
Morgan took advantage of the moment to question the Drazi while he was off-balance. “What else?”
“Got plants from fur-shells in market. Bought or took.”
“And someone objected, right?”
The Drazi nodded, all but flush with the floor, eyes locked on the outraged Huka.
Gahara was scowling over her carapaced shoulder at the Drazi when her own communicator sounded. Even the other Rangers could hear the alarmed calling from the other end. Then it was silent. She stared at the communicator in shock, before hurling it straight at the Drazi’s head. A glare from Morgan kept his complaints down to a whimper.
Darquin exchanged a glance with Morgan. “What happened?”
She shook her head, then raised her voice as much as she dared. “Gahara!”
Gahara was waging a visible battle with herself, shaking. “My sisters who were on watch — they were attacked by Huka! Traitors…it’s an entire House! Now they come for us! Ot oyupu, is our generation going mad?”
Darquin slapped his link. “All units, prepare for combat. Enemies inbound. Mulitple enemies inbound!”
Morgan looked at Darquin. “Should we go to the roof, and out the way you came in?”
“Depends — we can beat feet or make a stand.”
“There is ‘want’ and there is ‘should’. Mr Kreichbaum has been our priority.”
“I’m fine!” Eddie put in quickly. “And I still have something to retrieve from downstairs. Sir.”
“Ie, then. Let us do that first, before the rogue House arrives.”
Darquin tossed his folded pike into his other hand and drew his PPG pistol. “Okay, Team Three, hold the roof and call our ride. We have a guest. Two, form a defense line on the second floor. Everybody, keep your lines ready. Don’t let them bottle us up in here. You and you, show Baz here to the bridal suite.” He pointed a thumb at the roof, then waved the Drazi goodbye.
Kriechbaum hefted the Drazi’s club. “Ready whenever you are. And you too, Miss Gahara,” he added with a grin to the black-furred Huka.
“Let us settle this,” Morgan said.
After a glance at Gahara registered the Huka’s blank look, Eddie said cheerfully, “I’m on it. Right behind the rest of you.”
Darquin started down the stairs without a word.
“We will save you something,” Morgan promised with a wolfish grin, before stepping out.
Staff held firmly in both hands, Gahara followed behind them. “If you strike at the edge of the thoracic shell,” she told them, “we find it exceptionally uncomfortable. Similar to a human’s ‘solar plexus,’ I believe it is.”
“Ie, I understand that. Thank you.”
“I figured it’d be something like….” Darquin stopped, listening. “Someone’s down there.”
“One of the Gaim, most likely,” Morgan suggested.
“Should we meet them — or wait for them to come to us?” Gahara asked softly.
“We’ll have to meet them, just to reach the pike first,” Darquin said.
“Then do not wait.” Morgan lifted her pike, ready.
ISA Phoenix–“The Dead Cannot Cry Out For Justice, Part 12: Getting Ready to Attack” © 2004 Jamie Lawson, Leslie McBride, Joe Medina
Babylon 5 tm and © 2004 Warner Bros.