Namazu and Erish prepare for battle
Hilimaz sat in the upstairs office at Batresh’s house. Having recently come to 1962 from the horrors of the Indian partition, she felt she had failed. “One would think,” she explained to the Elders, “…our actions had no effect whatsoever,” she continued, sending them images of the violence she witnessed.
She had grown accustomed to the clothing she wore in the 1940s, so she wore her favorite sari.
Sitting at the heavy wooden desk, she wondered whether the violence of the Partition might have been greater if her team had not been there. She sighed, haunted by the attacks she witnessed, whole trains full of passengers cut to pieces. The Potacas got a head start, inspiring butchery on both sides. Hilimaz and her team were challenged. She believed the biological weapons were stronger, even then, over a decade earlier. Now, helped by the Tlalocs, their technology made another quantum leap. She must have tissue samples from abductees. She must analyze the DNA of these new beasts.
Hilimaz had made connections with humans in northern India, she loved them, and had become emotionally invested. She tried to stay away from romantic entanglements, but it had been difficult. She remembered Fayyaz, fair minded, agnostic, a socialist, but born into a Muslim family. She wondered what happened to him. The last she heard, his father died, and he was running their sprawling farm near Okara, a small village outside of Lahore. She thought of his easy laugh, his critical views of the Abrahamic religions, his sense of humor. She wondered if it might be appropriate for her to contact him now. But, she shook her head.
She was brought back to the present, by the sound of Batresh ascending the stairs. Like the good Indian wife she learned to portray, she stood to meet her hostess. Batresh nodded, as she entered, turning her palms upwards.
Hilimaz could tell Batresh was curious about the status of her work with Namazu. She offered, “She will be here today with Erish.”
Hilimaz continued, trying to hide her disappointment, “I don’t believe Namazu will take me with her.”
Batresh responded, “I don’t think you would be safe there.”
Hilimaz looked down at floral patterns in the rug. But, said nothing.
Batresh continued, “I don’t think you understand how dangerous the riot might be. They will see you as the enemy. They will see you as the threat.” She walked closer to Hilimaz and took her hands. “We need you to be able to focus on your work. You would be distracted by violence that would be aimed at you.”
Hilimaz nodded. Batresh sat down at the desk. “The work we do sometimes puts us in danger.” She looked up at Hilimaz. “Have you recently come to Terra?”
Hilimaz responded with images, showing her where she had most recently been working, some of the violence she had witnessed, and the man she had loved.
Batresh nodded affirmatively. “Then, you know.” she paused, “It is challenging to balance work with relationships.” She looked up at her again, “This is my first mission.” She looked down at her hands. “Sometimes, I feel,” she paused, then began again, “overwhelmed.” She smiled. “I miss my husband.” She sent Hilimaz an image of Amun. “And, I miss my home.”
Hilimaz told her telepathically, that she met Amun. She also sent details, of Amun’s assignment to prevent an eruption at Yellowstone. She told her that he was going back in time three months, and that there was a chance of a temporal anomaly.
Batresh looked down at the surface of the desk, drawing her brows together with worry. Temporal anomalies were complex. She knew his work was dangerous. She closed her eyes, breathed in slowly, and said a silent prayer to Auset.
They heard a car pull up. Feeling Namazu’s presence, they smiled at each other. Batresh stood, taking Hilimaz’ hand. “Let’s go down.” They stood inside the screen door and watched Namazu and Erish get out of the car. Namazu saw Hilimaz standing behind the screen, “Ap ga kia hal he?” she asked smiling.
Hilimaz looked at Namazu as Batresh pushed the door open. “You speak Hindi?” she asked with excitement. “I am fine, thank you for asking.”
Namazu smiled mischievously “I don’t speak Hindi, I speak Urdu!” They both laughed, knowing that Hindi and Urdu were, essentially, the same language, one written in Hindi script, the other in Arabic.
Namazu and Erish walked to the back. Batresh watched her sister. She had not felt these emotions from her before. Not fear, but discipline, martial determination. She tried to peer into her mind. But, her feelings closed like a steel door. Namazu sensed her probing and turned sharply. Her left eyebrow arched angrily.
Then, she softened, remembering where she was. She walked back and took Batresh’s hands. “I am sorry, my sister.”
“I have not seen you like this,” Batresh said, looking into her sister’s face.
Namazu brought Batresh into her arms. “We are at war, my dear sister.”
Batresh looked at her questioningly.
Namazu took her sisters upper arms in her hands, and moved her back. Looking into her eyes directly, as if she were aiming a beam of light from her eyes into her sister’s mind. She communicated the information the Elders had given her. Batresh’s eyes widened. She tried to pull away, but Namazu held her firmly.
After a time, Batresh looked aside, not wanting to know more.
“My sister,” Namazu offered softly. “Please concentrate on your mission. This is why I am here. Erish and I will go to Oxford. Amun will go to the caldera at Yellowstone, and you will protect our Matriarch. We will all, our little family, here at 1962, do our best.” She kissed Batresh gently, and turned. Namazu was slumped. Her mood changed. She turned again, facing Batresh, and continued, “At least we are all here at the same time. I am grateful for that.”
Batresh stood there frozen, immobile, paralyzed by images Namazu sent her. The Potacas were sending messages to sites in the Southern U.S., in Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and Georgia, encouraging hidden alien cells to join KKK organizations, to whip up white supremacist anger, to foment acts of savagery against people of color. She sent Batresh images of black men, lynched, castrated, their bodies burned. More messages sent to East Germany, to Soviet leaders and bureaucrats, pushing them to be less and less tolerant of dissent, to kill rebels and those trying to escape. Batresh saw images of bodies tortured, killed and dumped onto streets as a warning. More images of brutality, torture and murder from South Africa and China. And in all images, the beasts, swirling energies, throbbing, squeezing those in power to commit more outrageous acts of violence.
She told Batresh about signals from Titan and Venus aimed at the Earth. This was a planetary effort. The Potacas and Tlalocs were working in various countries from colonies and motherships at the inner planets and at Saturn. The conflict was spreading, engulfing the solar system, but the target was Earth.
Someone called her name from the kitchen. The aroma of Indian spices, simmering in butter filled downstairs. “I’m making dinner,” Hilimaz announced. Batresh saw the pan contained cubes of lamb, onions, garlic, rice and other spices. The aroma was pungent, heavy with unidentified savory and sweet seasonings. The heavenly smells reminded her of home.
Hilimaz lived in a Muslim family during her time near Lahore, and was an expert at Punjabi farmer dishes. Batresh, eager to push images of horror away, asked Hilimaz about the spices, and preparing rice in butter.
She talked about her wifely duties in Northern India, cooking with yogurt, making butter, mixing curries. After a time, Batresh was no longer listening, but was focused on the images she had tried to push away.
The delicious aromas brought Namazu and Erish to the kitchen as well. Worldlier than Batresh, Namazu was familiar with this cuisine, and remarked on Hilimaz’ skills.
“Tomorrow, while we are at Oxford,” Namazu began, “watch sensor footage from the displays upstairs. You will be able to see which humans have beasts attached, and help point out the best subjects for examination.”
Batresh whispered the word to herself, “…examination.” The abducted humans would be terrified. She was hesitant to break the Moral Code.
Namazu continued, “We will stay here for the night, but tomorrow, we will head to Oxford,” she looked at Erish and Hilimaz. “We will be in constant communication.”
Batresh nodded affirmatively.
Namazu looked out the kitchen screen door towards the shed, as if she were looking for an answer. She stood there, leaning against a chair at the table, silent, watching Hilimaz stir rice in circular patterns. The women grew quiet. Namazu’s mouth was set in steely determination.
Batresh, knowing her sister, saw insecurity in her eyes.
Hilimaz placed more sliced onions and garlic in the pan with the rice, and Namazu looked down at the floor. She said nothing, but slowly turned, and walked to to bedroom.
Batresh stood to go after her, but Erish stopped her. “She needs space.”
Batresh turned to watch Hilimaz as she added chicken stock to the mixture.
Erish continued, “She won’t eat anything tonight or tomorrow.” She looked back at Hilimaz as the aromas grew stronger, “She gets like this before battle.”
Dinner that night was somber. Hilimaz created a spicy Punjabi stew, with rice and potatoes. She also made flat bread they used instead of utensils. They spoke little. Hilimaz thought of every detail. Breaking with Muslim traditions, she brought red wine, complete with hand blown goblets.
As they ate the strongly spiced stew, cooled with yogurt, they thought of the coming battle.