The young experimental Triads are made up of the smallest primate tribe of Humans – Oscar and Kashayla; the smallest canine pack of Kiiote – six, pack leaders Qap and Xurf; and the smallest camelid herd of Yown’Hoo – a prime eleven, Dao-hi the Herd mother. 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.
“We had nearly fallen into stagnation when we encountered the Kiiote.”
“And we into internecine war when we encountered the Yown’Hoo.”
“Yown’Hoo and Kiiote have been defending themselves for a thousand revolutions of our Sun.”
“Together, we might do something none of us alone might have done…a destiny that included Yown’Hoo, Kiiote, and Human.” (2/19/2015)
"So there are no aspects of your war with the Kiiote that you find humorous?" Shayla asked, incredulous.
Lt. Retired held up a hand for silence, then gave me another signal that clearly meant "slow down". I did, moving forward as the ferry slid across the slow-moving water. Shayla whispered, "Is this still the Mississippi?"
"What?" Shayla said. Lt. Retired made a chopping motion. I could practically feel her bristle like a Kiiote in heat. She hated when anyone cut her off. I figured it was because she held her personal advice in higher regard than the rest of us did.
"I'll have you..." she began as the night lit up in brilliant fire outside the truck.
Lieutenant Retired moved faster than I’ve ever seen him move – in the short time we’d known him. Before I knew it, he was practically in my lap and had grabbed the wheel from me, swerving on the road as another ball of fire blossomed right where we’d been.
Shayla screamed, “We’re under attack!”
I would have slapped her if my hands weren’t being crushed on the steering wheel by Retired’s hands as he drove. “Floor it,” he said.
I floored it. The truck surged ahead, whipping around a corner. For a moment, I could see the river clearly ahead, as if we were going to drive into it. “Retired, what are you doing?”
He turned and shouted to the group – right into my face, “Hang on!” I tried to let up on the gas, but realized he had his foot over mine, too.
“You’re going to crash us over the edge – that’s your solution?”
“Shut up kid. I have to concentrate! When I go back to my seat, just keep driving!”
“Over the edge of the cliff and into the river?”
He turned again, this time grinning wildly, “Things are always more complicated than they appear. Just do it – or I’ll kill you after you screw things up and just do it myself. I’d rather have you on my...”
He jumped back to his seat, put on his seatbelt and braced his arms against the dashboard. Another curve in the road was rushing up at us, clear in the radar and sonar screen that was the windshield. I could do what he said or die.
It looked for all the world like if I did what he said, we WOULD die!
I said, “Either way!”, floored the accelerator and jerked the wheel to the left, following the curve. Everyone in back screamed. A fireball blossomed in front of where we’d have been flying if I’d followed Retired’s order. I leaned on the accelerator as we came out onto a straightaway, flying along a road that was remarkably smooth and in one piece.
From Retired’s side of the truck, I heard him say, “The boy can think for himself.” He turned to me and said, “Keep heading straight. On your right, just after we cross a wooden bridge, you’ll see the remains of a mansion, veer right and up the drive and stop in front of it when I say to.”
I nodded, plowing through the night, following the sonar and radar traces alongside the road from me as we drove through a bombed out cluster of buildings. After a few moments, I saw a pair of torches flickering in the night ahead. “What do I do...”
“Don’t stop. Whatever you do.” I nodded and kept on. The truck lit up the bridge structure behind the torches. Even in the strange imagery of sonar and radar, the bridge looked like it was about to collapse.
“Is it going to hold up under the truck?”
“Leave that part to me.”
Shayla and the Herd Mother said at the same time, “What’s going on up there?”
“We’re a little busy right now, but as soon as we survive driving over this rickety old bridge, I’ll come back and tell you.”
“What rickety old...”
Suddenly, machine gun fire spanged off of us. “Humans!” I shouted...