The young experimental Triads are made up of the smallest primate tribe of Humans –two; the smallest canine pack of Kiiote – six; and the smallest camelid herd of Yown’Hoo – eleven, a prime number. On nursery farms and ranches away from the TC cities, Humans have tended young Yown’Hoo and Kiiote in secret for decades, allowing the two warring people to reproduce and grow far from their home worlds. Grendl, Manitoba is one such place. No one but the Triad Company has ever heard of it and the physical plant goes by the unobtrusive name of Organic Prairie Dairy.
The Triads never hear of anything they aren’t spoon fed in their luxury worlds. surrounded by a Humanity that has degenerated into a “duck-and-cover” society as the Big Boys fight their war. They don’t care about anything but their own lives. Oblivious, cocooned, manipulated, they have no idea that their privileges are about to be violently curtailed.
“Who would dare do that?” Lan-mai-ti, a Yown’Hoo almost-male.
“Kiiote,” said Dao-hi, leader of the Yown’Hoo Herd.
“Yown’Hoo,” said Qil and Fax, the Pack seconds, in a unison that slid into a howl.
Shayla boxed the ears of both of them. It was a tribute to her toughness that Qap and Xurf didn’t interfere. The pups, Towt and Doj cowered away from their Pack while the seconds decided what to do.
For once, I kept my mouth shut. Even Dao-hi restrained the immature Por-go, Zei-go, Seg-go, Ail-go, and Eel-go members of her Herd with a well-timed fart seething with dominance pheromones. It was so thick, even I could smell it. I caught myself before I could cringe. It wouldn’t do the Triad any good if we let rank and order mixed up now. Shayla on the other hand, hoof, or paw; was right. The firsts knew it.
The Twenty would have to stand together or, I glanced back toward the Old Dome, we might just die alone. Qil and Fax flopped over on their backs a moment later. Shayla tweaked their muzzles. Then next thing she knew, the seconds were rubbing against her shins. She endured it, then said, “We have to move.”
Even I got the alert on my stickiphone. I’d only felt that peculiar vibration once. We found out later that an unknown force had tried to take out one of the Humans in the Harbin Triad. It was a signal to lay low. For us it meant to hides in the Catacombs.
I looked up at Qap, Xurf and Dao-Hi, and said, “We’re going to have to find new Catacombs.”
“A new place to hide? During an insurrection?” said Dao-hi.
Shayla shook her head, “This isn’t an insurrection.”
“How do you know?”
“An insurrection is a uprising against an authority. This can’t be that.”
“What makes you say that?” Qap asked.
I was only barely following the conversation. I was planning our route out of the Cities. The Old Dome was closer to the north side of town than the south. The population north of the Cities was less dense. See, Shayla’s the brains of our Tribe. I’m the strategist…you weren’t expecting me to say ‘the brawn’, were you? I’m like a twig next to Shayla! Pale skin, red hair, and wire-for-muscle. She’d have been a Viking if she wasn’t black and sharp as an obsidian knife.
Me? I was the best skulker ever born. I can out-skulk Towt. She’s the runt of her litter, pelt mottled like a hyena’s and paws bigger than both my hands. When we’re in natural light and it’s sunset to sunrise – you can’t see her.
But I could slip, slide and pad my way through anything. I even snuck up on Towt once when she was making in the deepest part of the Catacombs. She’s sorta weirdly private about that stuff. Anyway, when I found her, I literally scared the crap out of her!
Shayla slugged me good and hard this time. I deserve it, but I wasn’t about to let her know I knew I did. Instead I said, “The riot was random. Not directed against anything or anyone.” I resisted sticking my tongue out at her.
Dao-hi growled deep in her throat. “You just said the riot was a diversion!”
I stared at her then stepped up, spreading my arms wide; an intimidation gesture in the Herd. “I didn’t say that. Why would you imply that I said that?”
Her tentacles slid from their sheaths with a wet, slurping noise. The tentacles were usually for manipulation, though each held a pair of poison spines that snapped out – like a stingray spine – when a Yown’Hoo got angry. That’s pretty often, actually. All of them are typically short-tempered. They usually butt heads to settle differences. They can also fight to the death. She snarled, “You are accusing me of collusion with these kidnappers?”
I stepped backwards. Yown’Hoo venom isn’t usually deadly to Humans. But it can make us swell up like marshmallows if we get stung. That gave most of us one heck of a headache. I said, “How do you know our Tribe mates were trying to kidnap us?”
Dao-hi snapped the tip of her tentacles, a movement I’d learned meant nervousness. “I do not know. I am – what do Humans call it – a guess?”
I was stunned. Yown’Hoo are mathematicians. It’s why they reached space long, long ago and discovered how to travel it outside of the dimensions we know about. The Kiiote warped real space, bending it to their will and leaping over huge distances by creating ultramasses and dropping them on the fabric of space-time, gliding from one edge of the wrinkle to another. Humans were nowhere near either technology. We’d discovered how to reach light-speed instantaneously only thirty years ago. That was how we came to the attention of the Yown’Hoo and the Kiiote and their centuries-long conflict. “You don’t guess – you calculate!”
“We have learned the wisdom of the occasional guess. It is outside of calculating, though you might call it a calculation of the heart and our calculations of the heart suggest that we are to be pawns in some sort of game.” In the distance I heard the whine of an ancient anti-gravity device nearly drowned out by the thuttering roar of helicopters. She said, “The game continues.”Image: http://us.123rf.com/400wm/400/400/ragsac/ragsac1011/ragsac101100050/8270032-love-calculation-sketch-of-heart-and-formulas-for-the-heart-shape-calculation.jpg