In this excerpt from the 2nd chapter, "Kataru Allies," Namazu learns more about their enemy's culture
Namazu had never commanded a fleet. Few Tayamni had even seen war. The only battle she’d been a part of was with musket rifles and bayonets. Looking through the window in front of her, at least 60 more vessels had arrived. She shouldn’t have sent Amun to Indonesia.
A face materialized on her screen. “Admiral,” the voice said. Then, she saw, it was Bosmat, the Chava Commander.
“Please forgive my intrusion,” she offered, smiling. “I don’t intend to eavesdrop. But, your thoughts are hard to ignore.”
Namazu blushed, wondering what she had been thinking.
“Admiral,” Bosmat said, moving closer to the camera. “My people have experience in battle. You may assume as much by organic armor plating on my body. Please allow me to offer my services.”
Namazu was not accustomed to having her thoughts read so easily. She moved away from the display, as if distance would give her privacy.
Bosmat continued, “We will have administrative help. The Ormarr are excellent at organizing and mining data. They have unusual environmental requirements, so they will remain on their ship. You will find they are skilled at coordinating millions of data streams. They can supply us with split second responses. You will see,” she smiled, “none excel at administration more than they.”
Namazu simply looked at the screen. She didn’t know what to say.
“May I be permitted to come aboard, Admiral?” Bosmat asked.
Not sure what to do, Namazu simply nodded her head. The display winked off.
“Wow,” Namazu whispered, barely audible. She spun her chair around slowly, as if she expected to see Bosmat standing behind her. But, she only saw an Amelu cyborg sitting at a console. She wondered if she should simply give the command of the entire effort to Bosmat. Then, she sat back in her chair.
“What am I doing?” she asked herself, regaining control. She turned back around to her display. She wanted to understand which allies had arrived, and how many fighters they had. Looking through a window, she scanned the Solar Portal as if a solution would appear. She felt someone touch her shoulder.
Turning around, she saw Bosmat standing behind her.
“Greetings, Admiral,” she said, nodding, her palms turned upwards.
Namazu swallowed hard. She didn’t feel anger, nor fear, she just didn’t know how to respond. She felt as though she owed something to this woman. But, she couldn’t think.
“Please forgive me,” Bosmat looked at the console in front of Namazu. “Your skills far outweigh mine in military strategy. However, I can offer help with organization.” She looked at Namazu, gesturing to the Captain’s chair, she asked, “May I?”
“Of,” Namazu smiled, “Of course,” she stuttered.
Bosmat sat down, and quickly understood the workings of the console, commands, and databases. Her fingers flew over hieroglyphic shapes. Looking at the display, she nodded. “The Enkara will arrive soon. With your permission, I will send these data and access configurations to the Ormarr. They will link with all allied systems. Relevant information will be at your disposal, Admiral.
“Yes, Yes, of course,” Namazu responded.
Bosmat stood to leave.
“How did you understand our controls so quickly?” Namazu asked her.
Bosmat looked down embarrassed. “Admiral,” she began, reaching her hand over to touch Namazu’s forearm. “Please don’t be alarmed. My people have been communicating telepathically since historical records began.”
“So, you read my mind, without my knowing?” Namazu asked concerned.
“It’s not so much that we read your minds,” she began. “But, if you have reached Compatibility, as both our people have done, there is, a degree of,” she paused. “…at the risk of being redundant, I suppose the proper term is, compatibility,” she paused again, and touched Namazu’s cheek. She continued, “It allows certain species to see your thoughts and feelings, almost as if you wore them as clothing.
“I can hear another’s thoughts from a distance. And, always, when looking at the faces of people, I see and hear their thoughts, memories, feelings, even stored memories.
“It was as if you showed me how the console works and gave me access codes and methods for overriding biometric constraints. I know everything you know. I am sorry if that offends you, or causes you concern. I can assure you, I will not use this information in a way that will hurt you.” She smiled, touched Namazu’s hand, and turned to leave. As she reached the lift to descend to the lower level, she looked back. “My people have been using this ability to sense others for so long, we cannot lie. It is beyond telepathy.” She turned and entered the lift.
Namazu stood there. She never known a species with such abilities. She looked back at the console and saw the ships of each allied race listed, along with members of their crews, their assignments and abilities. She looked back at the lift, as if Bosmat were still standing there. Seeing the list of ships at her command, she sighed, both with the relief of having these administrative tasks taken care of, and the fear of having a stranger know so much about her.
She heard a ping from the console. “On screen,” she commanded. The face of a young man materialized. The viewer moved away, and she could see more. Between the camera and his face were signs of hovering, transparent screens; data, hieroglyphic shapes, cuneiform markings, and visualizations of ships sliding across screens. Projected displays hovered around him. Then, she saw his body. He floated, as if in zero gravity. He wore a kind of crown that, as the display zoomed in, she saw was a bony structure growing from the crown of his head. Two more sets of curved horns grew, arching up and down, from his skull. These attributes would not have seemed so strange, if not for what she saw next. Extending downwards from his waist, was the body of a large fish, with colorful scales and sharp projections extending from each side.
She had heard of these creatures in mythology. Humans called them mer-men. But, they didn’t exist. Creatures like this, with a mammalian upper half and a fish lower body were impossible. He even had closely cropped hair on his head. She wondered if someone was playing an elaborate joke.
“Greetings, Admiral,” he spoke.
Namazu simply nodded.
“Askook, here. I will be your primary contact for administrative tasks,” he stated. She saw he was not looking at the display on which her image was projected, but rather was focused on the streams of data flowing in front of him.
“Thank you for introducing yourself,” she responded.
“Bosmat has given me an initial data upload. I have information about the enemy, the Tlalocs,” he added.
“We don’t know much about them,” Namazu responded.
“I am sending you additional data. It will appear at this location.” Namazu saw a red symbol, blinking on her display. “Consume the data, either downloaded, or on screens.”
“Thank you, Askook,” she responded. “We are fortunate you are with us.”
“The honor is ours.”
She saw a smile creep onto his face.
“I sent you information, about the unusual circumstances of my own race.”
Namazu felt embarrassed to have questioned his authenticity.
“Please contact me if you have questions,” he responded.
Namazu nodded and the transmission ended.
She read through information he sent to her display while also keeping an eye on ships arriving. Reading the first data point, she shook her head. Apparently all Tlalocs considered themselves to be male. She remembered seeing images of them. They looked like Terran reptiles, splayed toes, pointed claws, heads longer from front to back than from top to bottom, with a ridge of spiked, scaled protrusions. The face dominated by a toothy beak, they were covered by gray scaly skin.
Askook sent footage of a ritual at the Tlaloc home system of Kulkul. The information was found in a Lukur database showing their home system as residing on the Sagittarius Arm, not far from the Transit. They conquered most surrounding systems. Communications showed they believed Earth’s Solar System to be the most vulnerable on the Transit, and rightly theirs.
In the footage, a robed Tlaloc, processed down a central aisle. His robes extended behind him in a lengthy train of yellow satin. He was followed by hundreds of acolytes and priests. His destination, an elaborate throne at the north end of the hall. He wore a tall, green miter and carried a staff, topped with brightly colored feathers. Curving plumes decorated rectangular surfaces in the cathedral-like space. They heard music, or rather hisses, clicks and growls, Tlaloc singing. Sounds of water flowing, pitched in dissonant chords, accompanied the procession.
The planet was hot and dry. Water was precious. The sound of flowing water captivated them. The empire was ruled by this one religious leader. The military hierarchy surrounded and descended from him. His clothing reminded her of how the Vizier at Sekhem dressed.
Images showed they were heavily militarized, even within their everyday lives. Hatchlings began studying military strategy as soon as they could hold a weapon.
Namazu moved her face closer to the screen to see more clearly. She gasped in surprise. The Tlalocs were indeed one gender, but, depending on circumstances, cultural cues and societal pressures, they switched roles. All had the ability to both fertilize, and lay eggs. Namazu whispered, “They are all female.”
They presented themselves as male, with male attributes. To refer to a Tlaloc as female was considered slander. The state made choices for which pairs were to mate. Eggs were delivered to repositories where they were hatched, groomed, taught and cared for. Defeat in battle condemned not only those who were conquered but also descendants for generations. One’s status in society was raised or lowered depending on success in battle.
The state served as family, employer, law giver, and executioner. They lived within strict dogmas. Their entire social structure centered around keeping the most affluent in power.
She read on. She saw a warning sent to all Tlaloc colonies ten thousand years ago, in a prey-system, a term they used to refer to mammalian societies. Something translated as guardian technology shot them from that system to a position nearer the center of the galaxy. All ships and personnel were transported instantaneously to a distance thousands of light-years away. Even Tlaloc colonists at nearby moons had been transported. She wondered if this referred to the time when the Tlalocs disappeared from the Solar System.