Bad Things Happen
This part originally appeared in the May/June 2016 issue.
30th of 2025 (221-93): Antiavash Central Hospital
I watched as the rolling waves passed beneath the speeder. I could see the Antiavash arcology, its elegant spires reaching three kilometres into the sky. It was only a short distance to Nashu’s home, a small town called Askisfant on one of Daramm’s many islands. It had only taken me three days to recover, but they’d kept me in for seven, for observation. I don’t think they were really worried about my physical health. Nashu had come to see me most days, she brought me fruit and flowers, told me I needed to eat, rebuild my strength. She was probably right; I must have lost at least twenty kilos, but you had to be careful with food. I saw the shore draw near, farm land stretching beyond. The horrors I’d seen jarred against the quiet rural landscape. Slower now, the land slipped passed, fields and orchards, people working, farm machinery. I noticed the surprising lack of automation; I wondered at that, but said nothing. We touched down outside a large stately home. It looked old, very old, built of brick, three stories, polished crystal glass. I saw a wood a little way off, a stream and a small lake. An ideal rural estate. Well at least it was a pretty prison.
73th of 2025 (264-93): The Manish Estates, Askisfant
I sat at breakfast with them. This was a new thing, but I seemed safe. I remembered the first morning. Kamsi had found me curled up in a tight ball of sheets under the bed. I’d checked the room carefully but that seemed the safest place. I usually slept in the bed now, but still, sometimes, when the nightmares were really bad, I’d escape to my cave; I felt safe there. She’d brought me some of her clothes to wear, they were huge on me. I had my own now, Kamsi had taken me shopping. Well, eventually; I couldn’t face the crowds the first time, or the second. But it was okay now; I was pretty sure it was safe here, so I joined them for breakfast, most days; I was even starting to put some weight back on. Blindii entered and whispered something to Nashu. She looked surprised. “Siishubuu?” The door opened and a man entered. He was in his thirties, tall and handsome. But that’s not what I saw. I’d been wrong, it wasn’t safe here. All just a scheme to get my trust. I panicked and ran. Ran back to my cave; I knew it was pointless, they’d just drag me out, but, hell, I felt safe there.
Siish sat stunned. The woman had just sprinted out the moment she saw him. “Who, what was that?”
His mother sighed deeply, “That, Siishubuu, was Isabella; she’s our parolee.”
“Why did she bolt like that? I’m not that scary.”
She sighed again, “No, but your uniform is. And she was making such progress.”
Siish was confused. “My uniform?” He thought for a moment. “Combat fatigue?” He’d seen it of course, but this seemed rather extreme.
“Something like that, Siishubuu.”
“Shouldn’t she be repatriated, on compassionate grounds7?. Or at least in counselling?”
His mother focused on the table. “Unfortunately, circumstances prevent repatriation. But she is in counselling; your brother is, after all, an excellent Shugilii8 and dokhtor. But anyway, Siishubuu, why are you here?”
“Martinez is in for refit, after Giasaaru. I’m leaving again tomorrow.” They were assigned to supporting the raiders now, hazardous duty. “I just wanted to see the family.”
His mother was touched; she was aware of the risks he faced. “Thank you, Siishubuu, it is good to see you as well. However, you will need to get out of that uniform, and then you can help us coax Isabella out again.”
Siish was changing when his brother came to him. He was carrying a plate of pancakes covered in syrup. “I thought you didn’t approve of those, Eneri, but thank you, I’m starving.”
Eneri chuckled, “I don’t, and they’re not for you, little brother; they’re for Isabella, she loves them.”
Siish looked longingly at the pancakes. “I love them, too.”
Eneri grinned, “Well, go get Isabella and then we can eat.”
“Where is she?”
“In her room, second floor, blue guest room. She’ll be under the bed, most likely.”
Siish was puzzled. “Under the bed? What’s she doing there?”
I was in my cave, curled up tight, waiting. I heard the door open; someone came in. I saw the man’s face appear. He’d changed out of uniform; I wasn’t fooled. “Eneri made you some pancakes.” He put a plate on the floor where I could see.
I looked. I was hungry, but I’d learnt not to trust food too much. Vomiting and diarrhoea are not fun. “You eat one.” He hesitated, then picked a pancake. “Not that one.” I picked another. “That one.” He moved to take it; I changed my mind, “no, that one.” He hesitated again. “Eat it.”
He took it and ate; I waited. He looked at me, and asked, “Well, are you going to eat the rest?”
“No, in a while. Who are you?”
He continued to look at me. “Siishubuu, Siish.”
“Why are you here?”
He smiled, “I’m on leave, come to see my family before,” another hesitation, “I leave again tomorrow.” It sounded plausible, but then again, it would. I watched him carefully. “Well, are you coming out to eat these?”
I kept watching. “No, not yet; push them under here.” He pushed the plate under; I kept looking. Nothing.
“Well?” Still nothing; I took a small careful bite. They were Eneri’s; another bite, they seemed okay; I started to eat. “Look, can you come out? I’m starving and watching you eat is only making things worse.”
He waited as I ate. “Look, you're a grown woman; you’re being silly.”
“No; you'll have to drag me out.” He reached under and grabbed my arm. I bit him, hard. He yelped as I tasted blood. He stood and left holding his hand. I finished my pancakes.
Siish came out clutching his hand. “She bit me!”
Eneri chortled, “What did you do, little brother?”
“She drew blood, look!” He thrust his hand out.
Eneri looked. “Ick, nasty, that’ll need sealing.”
“What the hell is wrong with her?”
Eneri sighed, “I don’t know; she’s not ready to say.”
“She was terrified of me, totally feral, but terrified. That look in her eyes, like some wounded wild animal. What happened to her?”
Eneri shrugged, “I'm not sure.” He cast his eyes to the floor, “I’m not sure; Mother is very evasive, but I think…” He paused. “I think we, the Protectorate, did this to her.” They stood in silence awhile “Come on, little brother. We’ll have to leave her awhile. Kamsi’ll be home soon. She seems to be able to get through to her. I’ve got some suture spray in my bag. Let’s get that cleaned up and I’ll make a you a few, and I mean a few, pancakes.”
Kamsi came in a few hours later. Her head appeared at the bedside. “They tell me you’ve been maiming my brother-in-law.”
“He tried to pull me out.”
She chuckled, “So you bit him?”
I grinned, “Yes.”
“Eneri had to seal the wound, Isabella. Siish can be a bit of a prat sometimes, but he’s not that bad, really.” She put her hand under the bed. “Look if you want to bite somebody, bite me.” I hesitated, then took her hand. She smiled “Much better. Now, come on out; you need to meet Siish properly.” I hesitated still; I was safe here. “Honey, if something bad was going to happen, don’t you think it would have happened by now?” I pulled myself out from under and she hugged me. “It’s okay, Isabella, it’s okay, you’re safe here. Now come outside, I've got a present for you.”
A bike, a grav-bike. Kamsi let me ride hers sometimes; she knew I liked them. But this one was mine of my very own. “Why don’t you take it for a spin?” I got on, it felt good. I pushed it off and circled the house a couple of times. I wanted to give it a proper run, but well, I couldn’t.
I set down next to her “Thank you, it’s wonderful.”
“Why don’t you take it for a real spin?”
“Two kilometres, remember?”
She had hers there, too. “I know; Mother is working on that, but these things take time.” I didn’t say anything “However, there are ways and means, Isabella.” Her face was covered by a wicked grin. My shoulders and arms twitched as I felt three jolts in my spine. Tingle, they’d said; tingle my arse. Her grin widened as she waved the mobile unit. “Now you’ve got five hundred metres from me. So… race you to the beach!”
Nashu Manish tsked as she saw the pair race off into the distance. Kamsikinash came from an excellent family, was a diligent daughter-in-law, a devoted mother, and Eneri loved her. But her fascination with grav-bikes, so… undignified. Siish stood beside her watching. “How’d she get her out?”
“Well, not by trying to drag her, Siishubuu; rather foolish.”
“Oddly enough, Mother, I did not consider the possibility that a grown woman would sink her teeth into me.”
His mother surveyed him rather condescendingly. “Perhaps you should have. However, Kamsikinash is a wonderful mother, and Isabella has much in common with a hurt child.”
“Where are the twins, anyway? I was hoping to see Munush and Enli before I left.”
“The Ashunmanii’s9 have taken your niece and nephew on a camping expedition in the Lants. Their grandfather is hunting for the Roryniar10, again.” Nashu was reasonably certain where Kamsikinash had got her ‘wild’ streak from.
Siish looked at Isabella and Kamsi as they passed from sight. “What happened to her, Mother?”
She considered. “Isabella? Bad things happen in war, Siishubuu.”
Siish thought for a moment. “Eneri said… He thought… that we might have done this to her?”
His mother thought, but Lady Councillor Manish answered, “As I said, Siishubuu, bad things happen in war.”
Siish looked at his mother. “Can you fix it, what was done to her?”
His mother stared at the window; she sounded very distant. “Fix, Siishubuu? Probably not, but, hopefully, we can help her learn to live with it.” Nashu Manish changed the subject. “So, Siishubuu, you’ll be leaving tomorrow; where are you off to?”
Siish hummed non-committally, “Back to Martinez, Mother.”
She turned to him. “Siishubuu, your concern for secrecy is most commendable, but I am head of the Security Committee of the Lord Protector’s Council. If I were an Imperial spy, the Protectorate would have far greater concerns than your next assignment.”
He felt a little ashamed. “Martinez has been assigned to support the raiding groups. The Imperium has changed tactics; the losses are mounting.”
His mother knew this; they were mounting alarmingly. “I know, my dear. You will take care, please.” She embraced her son; she wanted to hold him as long as she could.
93rd of 2025 (284-93): The University of Antiavash Museum
Lady Councillor Manish was waiting for her daughter-in-law to finish arranging the display, her latest exhibition of artifacts from her dig in the Lants. Madam Manish considered; she had never been one of those who subscribed to any of the various Roryniar theories, but some of her daughter-in-law’s latest items did appear intriguing. Her daughter-in-law finished supervising the positioning of a small statue of an odd creature and approached, wiping her hands as she went. “Mother, come to see the opening?”
“I would not miss it; but no, this is regarding another matter.” Nashu studied the stone creature. “Is that one of your Roryniar?”
Kamsi turned to the statue. “Sadly, probably not; far too recent, it dates from slightly before Edtyassos, not sure what it is yet. But the other matter?”
“May we speak somewhere privately?”
“Of course, Mother; my office.” They adjourned to a rather plain and cluttered university office. “So, Mother, what’s this about?”
“Isabella. The two of you appear to have become extremely close.”
“Yes; I like her, a lot.” She smiled. “She’s a lot like me, I think.”
“Indeed, she is. She seems to have picked up your fascination with the Roryniar, at least. She has been on at me about coming to your opening for days.” As well as sharing her passion for fast grav-bikes.
“I hope you can see your way to allowing her, please, Mother.”
Madam Manish smiled slightly, “Yes, she will be attending. It will do her good to get out. However, that is not what I wished to discuss with you.” She took a sharp breath; this was not going to go well. “There are some things about Isabella of which you are not aware. Doubtless you have noticed her… frequent distress.”
“You mean that she’s been hurt by something? Exceedingly badly hurt?”
“Yes.” Madam Manish had noticed a slight change in her daughter-in-law’s tone. “I suspect she will shortly be seeking to talk with somebody about what caused her pain. And I suspect that person will be you.”
The change in tone was very definite now. “Yes, Mother.”
Lady Councillor Manish decided to simply come out with it. “As you know, Isabella was captured at Rurur and six months later came to us.” Her daughter said nothing. “In the intervening period she was interrogated.” Lady Councillor Manish noticed her daughter-in-law’s eyes narrow, though she remained silent. The Lady Councillor decided there was no real point in trying to subtle or euphemistic “Her ‘pain’ was caused by what occurred in those six months.”
“Go on, Mother.”
“Isabella was tortured and,” she hesitated, “humiliated in ways I can’t describe, stripped of every shred of human dignity and came close to losing her mind.”
“The cause has been dealt with, very firmly dealt with,” she stressed the words very firmly, “but it will do no good for anyone if this were to become… public. There is a war on and in the absence of concrete proof, most people would simply refuse to believe it. However, the Security Committee would have no choice but to see Isabella as a threat and act accordingly.”
“And presumably, you’re telling me this so that I will remain silent.” Nashu could hear the contempt in her voice.
She ignored it. “Yes, it will do Isabella no good to spend the remainder of the war locked in a small cell. I imagine it would complete the job begun then.”
Kamsikinash sat there fuming; she looked at Lady Councillor Manish, her eyes searching for some understanding. Finally she spoke. “Mother, I will keep Isabella’s confidences. For her sake.”
Lady Councillor Manish was relieved. “Thank you.”
“One question, Mother.”
“Your sleep, is it restful?”
Nashu answered, “Less than I would wish.”
104th of 2025 (295-93): Hall of Memories, Waicir
Fleet Admiral Iigkikadii felt very odd being here; there was a war on and he was standing in the enemy capital. But bravery was bravery and deserved recognition regardless of whom made the recommendation. He reviewed the file, they’d had to hit her over the head to stop her dragging more wounded into the boat, definitely deserving a MCUF11. Franklin Vebee Adtmral saluted him. “Well, Lieutenant Sanchez y Montoya is here; shall we begin?”
114th of 2025 (305-93): A beach near the Manish Estates
I sat watching Munash and Enli play; I loved watching their innocent games in the water. People here loved water. “I envy you, Kamsi.”
“The children, I wish…”
“Hey, you’re what, twenty seven? Plenty of time. Mind you,” she smiled, she had something to share, “you’ll be a iikimurshi12 soon enough.”
It took a moment for me to realise what she was saying. “You don’t mean…?”
Her smile broadened, “Yes, I’m pregnant again!”
I hugged her, “That’s wonderful, Kamsi!”
“Eneri and I haven’t told Mother yet, so don’t let on.”
I sighed, “I think you’re wrong.”
“About me and children. I don’t think I will.” I could barely take care of myself and the thought of being with somebody… “I mean, who knows when I’ll be going home and anyway…” The memories of that place came back.
She noticed my distress and put her arms around me. “The war can’t go on forever.”
I gave a sad laugh. “I’ve read the children’s history books, thirty five years13. You people seem to have a habit of not giving up.”
“Honey, it won’t go that far. Any anyway, plenty of good men here.”
I snuggled into her embrace. “I don’t know, just, you know….”
Kamsi considered her conversation with Lady Councillor Manish. “There’s something else, isn’t there?” I nodded. “You know, Isabella, I’m here to listen, whenever you’re ready to talk.”
130th of 2025 (321-93): Planning a party at the Manish Estates
Gam and Mazun were visiting. They lived on Verasaryn, running the Khaadii clan’s shipping empire. They usually only visited once a month or so, but Kamsi had announced her pregnancy last week and there was a party planned. I’ll say one thing for the Protectorate, they know how to throw a party. Gam was very much a younger version of her mother, so stiff and proper. She’d spent over an hour informing me of all the duties of an iikimushi, a very serious role according to her. I’d eventually managed to escape and found Kamsi sitting quietly in the garden. “What are you doing here? I thought you’d be with Nashu and Gamaagin, organising.”
She grinned, “I was, but the two of them seemed to have things well in hand, so I… escaped.”
I giggled, “They are good at ‘organizing’, aren’t they?”
“Gam didn’t seem too keen on me as iikimushi,” I said, “…because I’m an Imperial?”
She gave a small laugh. “No, honey, it’s because you’re unmatched. Traditionally, an iikimurshi is supposed to be matched, preferably with children of her own.”
I was disappointed. “Well, if you’d prefer somebody else…”
“Don’t be silly, Isabella, this is my baby, my choice. Eneri is happy with you as iikimushi, so end of story.” She hugged me. “I know it’s hard, fitting in.” I just nodded. “How about, tonight, you take your purse off your lap14? I know Imperials can dance; I’ve seen them.”
I looked down. “I’m… I just never learnt.” I was lying, of course, and she knew it. But I remembered the last time I danced.
“You know, Eneri was more than a little offended when you turned down his offer to teach you.”
“I know, and I am very sorry for that. It's just…” My voice trailed off. She said nothing, just held me again.
177th of 2025 (003-94): Askisfant school
I went to school now, with the children. Learning to speak Luriani and Old High Vilani, learning how to fit in. The children liked me; I was exotic, spoke funny and came to school on my grav-bike. Well, it was only four kilometres away and I had five now. Some of the parents weren’t so keen on me, though; guess that’s what you get when you’re the ‘enemy’. Still, Dtinal Verasrasti15 called in a couple of times a week, just to put their minds at rest. Another benefit, I had a new friend, Ora Cajklus, the yasvati, the teacher. Kamsi had picked me up with the twins today, a bit odd. “So what’s up, Kamsi?”
“Well, we wanted to let you know, before you got home. Siish, Siishubuu is here, on leave for a week. Just wanted to let you know.”
I remembered my meeting with Siishubuu. I’d bit him. Then, at dinner, he went to stroke my cheek, I’d screamed and run out again. Not a successful first impression, probably. “It’s okay Kamsi, I’ll cope.” Nothing bad had happened after his last visit, so I figured it was probably okay. But I was still nervous. He was waiting when we got home. Sitting outside in civvies. I smiled, he looked as nervous as I felt. He stood as we got out of the air/raft. “Hello.” He extended his hand. I looked at it and pulled back, just a fraction. I don’t think anyone saw. This was stupid; he was just a man. I took his hand and shook it.
184th of 2025 (010-94): The Manish Estates, Askisfant
Siish stood on the terrace and looked out over the garden and out to the wood where he’d played as a child. He remembered swimming in the lake, and all the times he’d fallen from his favourite tree. He didn’t hear his mother come up behind him. “Still quite beautiful.”
He turned, a little startled. “Mother?”
“The estate, still quite beautiful, isn’t it, Siishubuu?”
“Yes.” The tranquillity jarred with the horrors he’d left and had to return to. “The perfect place to spend a childhood, Mother.”
His mother could see how far away he was; she understood. “Remember Siishubuu, this is why we are fighting.”
“I know Mother, just…” He recalled friends he’d lost. “…we’ve lost so many already.”
His mother took his hand. “I seem to recall mentioning to you that bad things happen in war, Siishubuu; it is best not to dwell on them too long.”
He sighed, she was right. “On that, Mother, Isabella appears to be improving. At least she no longer flinches every time she sees me.” He had seen her fear on the first few days of his leave. She appeared to be slowly mastering it, though.
“Time has many healing properties, Siishubuu.”
“She spent some time talking with me yesterday. She even smiled at me. I think I like her, Mother.” His mother considered for just a moment; her son’s match was long overdue. Then she firmly put such thoughts from her mind. There were far, far too many complications to consider that possibility. “Odd that she doesn’t dance though; I find it very hard to believe that she doesn’t know how.”
His mother simply replied. “She still has a long way to go, Siishubuu.” She looked at her son. “So, Siishubuu, a Kommadtur now and command of a division; your father would be proud.”
Siish took a deep breath. “Perhaps, but I’d still prefer to be a Kaptan with fewer dead friends.”
188th of 2025 (014-94): The garden, Manish Estates
It was dark, I was laying on the lawn looking at the sky. A year, this time last year. I tried to make out the star that was Rurur and the star that was home. I wondered what became of the other thirteen survivors. I knew there had to be a lot of other prisoners here. I had met a few, but not many. I heard someone approaching; it was Kamsi. “Aryn16 will be rising soon.”
“I know, but I thought I’d look at the stars in the meantime.”
“Have you found it?”
She lay on the grass beside me. “Home, Isabella, I assume that’s what you’re looking for.”
“Not yet; I’m still not used to these constellations.”
“Something eternal about the stars, isn’t there.”
We lay there looking awhile. I thought of the last year. “They raped me, Kamsi, tortured me and raped me.” I don’t know why I said it, it just came out. There was no anger, no pain. It was just a statement of fact.
I felt her hand take mine. “I know; Mother told me some of it, but I’d figured out the rest myself anyway.”
We lay there waiting for Aryn to rise.
Notes 1-6 appeared with Part 1.
- Both sides during the war released a few prisoners on such grounds. These cases usually involved severe mental or physical trauma.
- Part of the Shugilii’s role was to give ‘spiritual’ guidance and comfort. Most were familiar with the role of therapist.
- Ganidiirsi and Enidi Ashunmanii, parents of Eneri’s spouse Kamsikinash
- The Roryniar are a supposed sophont race that inhabited the Daramm system before the Ancients seeded the Luriani there. Their existence remains unproven and they are a highly controversial subject in Luriani academic circles.
- Meritorious Conduct Under Fire (MCUF) the third rank Imperial gallantry award. Above it were the Medal for Conspicuous Gallantry (MCG) and Starburt for Extreme Heroism (SEH).
- Literally supporting mother, Mmarislusant equivalent of a female godparent.
- She is referring to the Luriani Consolidation War. The Vilani’s campaign to conquer the Luriani. One of the bloodiest and most brutal of the Consolidation Wars, it took the Vilani 35 years to finally overwhelm the Luriani in a campaign that verged on extermination.
- It is considered extremely rude to refuse an offer to dance in Luriani culture. However, a person my place an item on their lap, indicating they do not wish to dance, thereby avoiding giving offence.
- Roughly translated, constable, a law enforcement officer.
- Daramm’s larger outer moon. Its disk covers about 0.35 degrees of Daramm’s night sky. Mrai the smaller inner moon covers 0.41 degrees. The combination makes Daramm’s night sky quite bright when both are above the horizon.