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)
There was a long pause, then Lieutenant Commander Patrick Bakhsh (ret) said, “So you run an underground railroad of sorts to keep Triads, the Masters, and the rest of the Humans of Earth safe – both Natural and Artificial.”
“We do,” Great Uncle Tim said. He set the weapon aside and slapped the wall. Lights came on behind him, lining a corridor that shrank away to a single point of very, very distant light. “This is the way we have to go.”
“Where are we going?” I tried to keep the whine out of my voice, but it didn’t work real well.
GU Tim snorted – and I realized he didn’t have to. He’d been made. There were parts of him that were Human flesh, but most of him was either organically synthesized plastic, or metal. His bones were mostly aluminum; his brain, “What did they make your brain out of?” I blurted.
He shook his head. “You’re just like your biological uncle. He rarely thought things out before he talked.”
I hung my head. ‘Shay slugged my arm and said suddenly, “It is one his most endearing traits. He couldn’t wear a mask thick enough to fool anyone.”
Tim perked up, adding, “He can’t play poker to save his life?” I thought there was entirely too much glee in his voice.
And in ‘Shay’s when she said, “Not to save his life!” They both laughed together.
“I’m still standing here in case you were wondering.”
Retired laughed. Qap and Xurf even added yips. The Herdmother added a scent to the air that was distinctly flowery. “Oh, great, now I’ve become the butt of everyone’s joke!” I pushed through the group and past Great Uncle Tim.
He called after me, “How do you know where we’re going?”
Without turning around and feeling my ears burning, I said, “Even I can’t get lost in a straight tunnel.”
I head ‘Shay whisper, “Now we’ve hurt his feelings. He’ll play this up for days and be insufferable!”
“I heard that!” I said, then stalked on. I heard yips and snickers, and I was sure the air would be full of lilac if I was standing back by them. After stalking for a kilometer, the stomping had started to hurt my feet. It was also getting boring. It was also getting lonely.
I was thinking about going back and apologizing, when GU Tim said, “Stop stalking and come back with us, Oscar!”
“My name is ‘Car!” I called My voice echoed back to them.
“Come on back, ‘Car! I’m sorry for laughing at you,” ‘Shay said. I heard claws ticking on the concrete floor of the tunnel and the next thing I knew Fax had come up to me. He stretched out from his four-legged form to the more usual two, but just before he did, he licked my hand. Even though it didn’t mean anything to a Kiiote, he knew it meant something to Humans when their dogs did it. He wasn’t anything at all like a dog, but he was my best friend in the Triad. Even better than ‘Shay.
I looked at him and said, “I’ll come back because you asked and because we’re friends.”
He dipped his chin, a Kiiote nod. We walked back together. When we got there, GU Tim was all business again. “We’re going to camp the night here.”
Herd mother Dao-Hi said, “We just stand in the middle of this tunnel and sleeps?”
“It is somewhat cold for Kiiote,” said Xurf, “But if must lie here…”
“Don’t be ridiculous! You don’t think I’d bring you here just to have you lay down on this filthy floor, do you?” He tapped the wall of the corridor. There was a pause then a hiss. An oval ring of light appeared as a thick door slid backwards then to one side. Now golden light poured into the dim corridor. GU Tim stepped in, saying, “What your step.” He beckoned us in. But even Retired held back. GU Tim looked disgusted, shook his head and made to tap the wall again.
‘Shay said, “Wait!” She stepped toward him. “Why would you rescue us and bring us down here just to murder us?”
He said, “I wouldn’t.”
“We have your word, then.” She nodded and followed him in. I looked at Retired, then slightly down at Fax – I was actually taller than he was, and he was the tallest in the Pack – and said, “I’ll trust him. After all, he is my great uncle.” I followed ‘Shay. Everyone else followed after that – and I was glad we did.
“We have quarters for all members of the Triads. Temperatures are set for your comfort and there are sleeping arrangements and foods for you all.”
Retired was the last one in, standing in the doorway a long time before he finally said, “So it looks like you don’t need me anymore, so I’ll just be moving…”
GU Tim held up his hand, palm facing Retired, and said, “Not so fast, Lieutenant Commander.”
“You are essential to the plan we’ve got for you.”
“That’s the second time you’ve referenced a group.”
Tim grinned, “Exactly. We would like to retain you for your services.”
Retired scowled then said, “Who are you?”