history, and to keep good records. I have some here in the ward room. Records I have kept and a journal I write in daily. But we need real archives, specialists in the field. Persons whose sole duty is to make sure our knowledge and history are preserved. That made Yoran smile, he already made paper and ink, binding the paper into blank books would be simple, all the Guardians could read and write and most all the Vela as well. Then he left it in Yoran’s hands to recruit the archivists and historians and to make sure they had the materials they needed and a safe way to store the records.
When Goran came to his ward room, he made sure he had someone there recording what was said, the history, information, and any designs that were shown. All was recorded. They were becoming a real society in his estimation, and they were now composed of several races working together for the same ends. When he talked about the Skree, it was with great wonderment, he told him that of all the sentient creatures he had met, the only ones that could take the Vatarians was the Skree. They were more than tough, strong and resilient, their bones didn’t break, and neither did their horns. Not even the Vatarians had been able to kill one with ease. That surprised him. He knew how strong they were, but to have a Vatarian say that they were the most fearsome and dangerous creatures in the galaxy was saying a lot.
Risa had finally forgiven him and Yoran, especially when Goran came to see them. He had accepted her and though it was a foreign term to him, he referred to her as daughter, which pleased her to no end. They had shared meals, kaba, and he came and made them an oven, a real oven, not one made from a pot that you needed coals to bake with, but a wood fired oven with a stove top. She could bake all kinds of things now, they didn’t eat bread, such as it is, but a flat bread like lavash, or tortillas, and they could now make it simply. She loved Goran so much. He went into the smithy and asked for permission to manufacture the stoves for the kitchens, and for the joined couple’s apartments. He installed a smoke removal system that made it work inside without giving their location away. He had built in recyclers that used the heat from the stoves to heat and pump running water throughout the complex, and he developed a complete sewer system that was also installed into the complex. He had revolutionized the standard of living in the whole community, and he had made them more comfortable.
With the improvements that Goran had made, and the help of the rest of the Vatarians, they had moved forward by leaps and bounds. They had pencils now, writing paper, archives constructed, ventilation systems, sewage and plumbing systems, cook stoves instead of pots over a fire, Yoran had made a refillable ink pen that didn’t drip or leak, and that changed the archives. He also was working on a printing press with moveable typesetting, based on a description of one Whitlaw had given him from Earth. It wasn’t perfected yet, and Whitlaw had described a computer keyboard to Yoran that if made correctly, would allow an archivist to press keys on a stand and it would do the typing on the paper making the printing that much faster. It wasn’t the same as the printing press, which used set type and pressure to place the print on the paper, the other device he called a type writer, but the paper stock they used was too thick to use. A puzzle for the Vatarians to sort out.
They were making incredible leaps in technology, but nothing would give them pulse rifles, phase pistols, or phase cannons. He talked at length with Goran about the Companions, and what they had. Goran told him all they knew. He told them that they had the weapons that Yoran had told him about, but that the secret to those weapons had died with the Companions. He also told Whitlaw that the Free Skree had secrets in their homeland, and explained that the Skree homeland had always been there homeland, they went to Varna with the Companions to make a safe base for them to work from. Whatever secrets the Skree held, only the Skree knew. He asked Regulus to speak with Goran openly, and he did. Goran asked him if he knew of anything he could tell them about the knowledge the Free Skree held about the planet. Regulus told him he had nothing he could tell them. Only the Free Skree would be able to do that, and he wasn’t so sure that Regulon would be all that forthcoming with information. Even if it was in Whitlaw’s opinion as vital information, Regulon would still have to decide, and he couldn’t see Regulon sharing any secrets the Free Skree may know.
That had been a road block, but it didn’t deter him from working on other things to improve the Guardians abilities to defend the planet. Goran had told him that the Vatarians had a good relationship with the Companions, they made things for them when they needed them, and supplied them with food stuffs, leather, and other supplies. Yoran came in, showed reverence to Goran, and asked them to accompany him to his shop, he wanted to show them something. They followed him to the shop and sitting in the middle of the floor, was a printing press, not a clumsy antiquated type that the ancient Earthmen had made, but a smooth operating, highly functioning printing press. Then he asked Whitlaw “I made your press as you asked, and it works, but how is this going to be of any great value?” Whitlaw laughed, and then he replied “We need books, for our schools and for the Guardian Cadets. To make it an academy, we need reference books, notebooks that the cadets and students can write notes in, so that the information being passed down doesn’t die with the instructor teaching the class.” Yoran realized what he wanted the press for, and he was pleased with having made it.
All this had taken less than a month, and they were still concerned about Jason and Shandarro. They had to be able to do something, Yoran couldn’t think of anything, but was continually checking with Lantana to see if she had heard anything, she hadn’t, she was as desperate as the rest of them for information. They were completely in the dark and no one knew if they were even alive. They had made so many improvements, and overall life was better, but they couldn’t help feeling their loss. It wasn’t practical, it was real, and they needed to find answers. She had exasperated herself with trying and trying to reach him with no results. She wanted him home, and that meant she couldn’t give up. He was a fighter, but he was also smart, resilient, could improvise, and overcome just about anything. His sword was wherever he was and she knew how good he was, only her father and Jamar were better, and that wasn’t by much.
The Scouts were out in force, scanning the planet and scanning the area for any clues as to why they were taken, and to see if they could find any answers for Whitlaw. There weren’t any clues, and for five years, the Marn hadn’t been to Embrellon, and when they did come, they had come like a thief in the night, and had taken them and left no clues. The hardest part was the killing of Shamira and Knala. The statue of them had been finished and place in the hall of heroes across from Jama. They were alike in ways, and they were now watching over them as they entered and left the Hall. Silent Sentinels, to watch over those who guarded the planet.
They had things to do, and preparations to make. Goran had looked at the Ballistae that Yoran had designed and built. He was intrigued by the mechanics of them, and how they worked, how far they could shoot one of the bolts, and the ease of operation. He studied the design carefully, looking at the platform it needed to be mounted on, and that it took two Guardians to transport it. he knew there was a way to make it more mobile without losing the precision of the Ballistae. He also knew that if he designed them right, that the ballistae could be permanently mounted in locations around the continent to bring even more firepower to bear.
Whitlaw had entered the workshop, and as he watched them, he was surprised at how involved they could get in their discussions, throwing ideas at each other, agreeing, disagreeing, pointing out flaws and advantages, and then they noticed him, he bust up laughing at the look on their faces, they hadn’t realized he had been there watching them for several minutes before they noticed him, they began to laugh as well. Whitlaw feeling a little comedic, said “I have always known what happens when you get two engineers in the same room, they become so involved with their work, that they tune everything else out.” It felt good to laugh, it had been too long, and he laughed even harder by the looks on their faces, they had no idea what he was laughing about.
Goran asked him how long he thought they had until the Marn returned. Whitlaw didn’t know, but with them taking his son and Shandarro, they could be back anytime. Then he asked him why? “I believe I have part of the solution to mounting and deploying your Ballistae. If we scout out and locate solid tanzite deposits, then I know I can give you permanently mounted Ballistae. Especially for this complex. I want to mount thirty of these to protect us, if you agree that is.” He didn’t know what to say, of course he would agree, but he wanted to hear how first. He responded “What would you need and how would you do it?” Goran was gaining more and more respect for Whitlaw, he didn’t ask questions without answers, he asked direct questions to gain information to make decisions, he decided that Yoran had made the right decision. “The what I’ll explain after the how”, and he started explaining, “what we need to do first is to carve out niches for the Ballistae, twice as long, and twice as high, as they need to be. Then we need to design a tight fitting door, that can be raised into the ceiling of the niche, next we need to make a rail system for the ballistae to slide out on with the ballistae mounted on a rigid platform, built to support its weight. It need to be long enough that the ballistae will extend out past the rock its mounted in, inside the niche, we will place the magazines to reload the ballistae with as needed, on the platform so that the operator can put a magazine in without getting out of the targeting seat.” Whitlaw was totally amazed at his candor, and Goran could tell that he was impressed.
“Now comes the how”, he stated, “We Vatarians are master stone masons, as you saw inside the compound. We will cut all the niches, and prepare them along with the upward swinging doors. Yoran and I will be in the smithy with your craft masters building the rails and the platforms, along with the rail clamps that will be needed. Also, does your craft masters have access to large amounts of tanzite dust?” Whitlaw confirmed that they did, “Good, we will show you how to make a lubricant for the rails, slides, and mechanical parts to keep them lubricated and functioning properly, and the lubricant last for years and years. Any more questions?” “Yes” he said, “How long will it take and how are you going to solve the transportable problem of the current models we use?” Yoran was the one who smiled and answered him this time, “once we have mounted permanent Ballistae, here and in locations throughout the continent, we will then tackle transporting ballistae. Until then, continue using the system your using.” That seemed to satisfy Whitlaw. “How long are we talking about this taking?” he asked, Goran answered “I believe we can have these in place in thirty days or less. After that, we will work out the logistics of transporting them.” With that Whitlaw left them to their work.
He wanted a list of their armaments and ammunition. Ballistae bolts, crossbow bolts, crossbows, arrows, faron shirts, armor, leather for making gear. He determined that he still wanted the Cadets to learn how to make their own equipment, as well as learning how to make a field forge, and to make their own weapons as necessary. The less equipment they needed to carry, the lighter they would be, that put less strain on the Skree to make them more maneuverable in the field and in the air. He also got the best trackers in the Guardian ranks and he started them training the others to be trackers. He wanted his troops as well prepared as they could be. Yoran had been irreplaceable in the development of all they had, but some day, he wouldn’t be with them any longer, and they needed the information there to teach. That was the reason for the printing press. He didn’t have computers to store the information on digitally, and that meant books. Ones that would decay, or lose their ink as time went on.
Jamar brought him all the tallies. He wasn’t happy, he assigned Jamar to go into the Craft Halls, and requisition what they needed. He also assigned the Guardians at the Temple to go and help them. They could make and assemble everything but the crossbows and ballistae, and they could make the bolts for them. Each Guardian made his or her own bow, specific to them, as Yoran had taught them. They could make belts, pouches, spare tack, boots, faron shirts, emergency kits, etc…, he wanted them ready. Goran came and gave him a progress report, the Vatarians had cut all the niches and the doors, the rails and door mechanisms had been installed, and the plates and rail clamps were almost completed, they would have all the ballistae in place in two days. As always, he was impressed with the Vatarian skills and abilities. He took advantage of the opportunity to ask Goran some questions about the Vatarians. “Can I ask you some questions about the Vatarians?” Goran nodded, “How is it that your people are able to accomplish so much in so little an amount of time? If we Brellon were attempting what you have already accomplished, it would take us months, possibly even years.” Goran sighed, and then he smiled, “We have no need to sleep as you do, we have a way of sending part of our minds to sleep, and we can continue working. Your species, human and Velan alike, require copious amounts of sleep to prevent your mental processes from breaking down.” He was stunned, not only were they three meters tall and strong as an Auroch, they could go without traditional sleep for weeks on end. “Do you actually sleep?” Goran laughed, “Of course we do, but, when needed we can at least thirty days without actually sleeping. That’s one of the reasons that we are so hard to conquer. When your exhausted and have to sleep, we keep coming, keep attacking, and that is our secret, which I have now shared with you.” Whitlaw was a little unsettled by what he heard, and had one more question to ask, “Goran, I know that we would have a difficult time killing a Vatarian, probably next to impossible, you said that the Skree could, how could that be?” Goran looked at him and explained, “The Skree not unlike us do not have typical bone structure of others. Their bones and plates are flexible, but their bones are infused with tanzite and faron. How indestructible are your swords?” he had answered the question for him about the Skree, but what about them. “I know that no one likes to tell someone else how to kill them, but I am not asking how to kill you, I am asking what is your bodies made from that makes it so tough to even hurt one of you. I saw how the cleansing didn’t kill Yoran, and he had healed in a week, I want to know why he survived at all?”
Goran looked at Whitlaw, “May I call you James, the familiar of your name?” he nodded “James, we don’t have bones. Our bodies are an exoskeleton covered by skin. We don’t have any easily accessible soft spots in our bodies. We have hair and beards, teeth and tongues, eyes and ears, etc…, we even have genitals, but our bodies are almost invulnerable, however, we lost a few of ours when we came here, and they were ripped apart by the Skree. Being nulls, they couldn’t tell we were sentient and killed a few before we could get them to listen. In fact, it was the Companions who stopped them.” Whitlaw whistled, that was incredible. He thanked him for speaking to him, and as he was about to leave, Whitlaw said “one more question if you don’t mind.” He nodded, “Do you think that Yoran and Risa will be able to have children?” that one caught Goran off guard and completely unprepared. He looked at Whitlaw with a questioning look on his face. “I am asking because Risa has never had children, in fact, Yoran is the only one she has ever been with. She delivered my children and have always treated them like they were her own. My question was for her, not for me. She wants to have children with Yoran, and if it’s not possible, she will accept that, but if it is, it is something she wants. Her life span will never match Yoran’s, seeing as he is over one thousand years old, and you are over two.” Goran sat back down, and put his head on his hands looking at him across the desk. Then he cleared his throat, “James, I don’t really know if it is possible. Eons ago, we were like you, male and female, and we became asexual because of a virus unleashed by a race that no longer exists. We still have genitals, and we carry the female genitalia inside our bodies. I would say it’s possible, but how probable that is, I cannot say.” With that he rose and left.
A short time later Risa came in with Lantana and Lara. They were excited, and he wasn’t sure why, and as he was preparing to tell Risa what Goran had said, Lantana blurted out “Risa’s pregnant.” Whitlaw was speechless. He had just finished speaking to Goran about that subject, and he asked, “Does Yoran know yet?” Risa looked at him and said “That’s our next stop, hopefully, Goran is with him, I want to see his face when he finds out,” she left him there humming and Lara and Lantana were almost giggly. Nothing like babies to make women hum.
He waited for a while before he decided to go to Yoran’s workshop and see how the news had affected the Vatarians. When he walked in they were laughing, and singing, and working. He had his answer. He stood there for a while and as he decided that he would leave them and go back the ward room, Yoran turned to get a tool and saw him, he rushed over, and lifted him off his feet with one hand and hugged him so hard he thought he would break his bones, then he regained some of his senses and set him down. “James, I am going to have a family, children with Risa, and I wanted to let you know.” He smiled, and Goran nodded his approval. “How do you think this news is going to go over with Yondor?” they both stopped in their tracks, and then he heard someone behind him, and he turned to see who it was and standing in the doorway was Yondor. “What news would that be Yoran?” it was Goran who answered him and he stepped between Yoran and Yondor, and then he spoke to him in Vatarian. Once he said what he had to say, he said in Velan, “I just told him he is going to be an uncle, in the old sense of uncle, that’s what I said in Vatarian. Risa is with child Yondor, are you going to exile both of us this time, or are you going to accept that to survive here, we need to be a part of this world, not hiding on it?” There was dead silence in the room, Whitlaw moved as far away as was possible without being overtly obvious, then Yondor spoke “Goran, I once exiled Yoran because I thought he was profaning our lives by his association with the Vela. In that I was wrong. It has been eons since we had traditional children, and I want to know if it’s possible for us to do that again. You’re right, we can’t hide inside our compound and sacrifice these people who have made it possible to live here, so no, there will be no exile, and the doors I installed to the compound have been taken down.” The room was at ease instantly.
The next day, Goran came to the ward room and announced “We are ready to test the Ballistae.” He almost vaulted from the chair, he wanted to see the mounted weapons. They went to the niche that Goran directed them to. They had installed ramps to get the them instead of stairs or ladders. It made getting to them very easy. When they entered the niche, sitting on a large platform at the back of the niche was a ballista, mounted on the rails, and sitting in the operator’s seat was Yondor, that surprised Whitlaw; he looked a little cramped in the chair, but he was ready to test it. He pulled a lever on the platform, and the door swung up to the ceiling, the ballista launched out past the wall, and was ready to be fired. That made it workable. What they needed now was to see how effective it was at aiming it and firing on moving targets. He conveyed as much to Goran, and he grinned, he motioned for him to step up to the back of the platform and to watch. He did, and he had Guardians aloft carrying target to shoot at, they weren’t hovering they were flying. Yondor tracked the targets and started firing, he hit every target, and the ballista was even more functional than before. It not only had a one hundred eighty-degree side to side capability, it also had one hundred and eighty degrees up and down capability, and they could be operated simultaneously. Whitlaw was beyond impressed. He asked Goran “How long to make all the niches battle ready?” “They are ready,” he replied.
He hoped that someday, they no longer took him by surprise, he always expected the efficiency, but with all the Vatarians working with them, they had taken it beyond his expectations. He was so pleased with the work, that he couldn’t thank them enough. They all bowed slightly, and told him to get his Guardians training with the revamped ballista. They were the most efficient engineers he had ever known, always ahead of the deadline, and always built efficient machines.
Goran said “James, I think we have an idea of how to make them easily transportable and keep their efficiency. That got his attention, they motioned for him to follow them to the workshop. He went with them and when they got there, Yondor took over, “Goran and Yoran explained to the logistical problem of deploying the ballistae in the field. I looked over Yoran’s designs and we came up with a solution, that we want you to approve.” Whitlaw motioned for him to continue. “We redesigned the field unit, and now, it can be transported by one Skree, and that includes carrying several magazines of bolts.” Whitlaw was once again stunned. He asked “How long to manufacture and test?” Yoran pulled a work cover off and there in front of them was the new model. It didn’t look like a ballista, it had no arms on the front, and it loaded from the bottom like a pistol, he wanted to see a demonstration of this new model. “When can we test it?” Regulus was standing behind him, and said “Why not now.” Whitlaw turned around and Regulus was saddled, and had a new apparatus hanging below the saddle.
They pushed the ballista to the door, and clipped it onto the holder on the bottom of the saddle, it was supported by the hand holds on the saddle bows, and Regulus easily lifted it and the magazines of rounds for it. Whitlaw mounted up and they headed out to where they could test fire the new gun. Regulus landed the gun, and Whitlaw dismounted and went to the new gun. He sat in the seat, and tested the controls, it had amazing movability. It turned a full three hundred and sixty degrees on its base, and it had a vertical lift of ninety degrees. That meant they could shoot straight up and in any angle between the ground and its ninety-degree lift. Once the others had arrived as well as Jamar, Lantana, Lara, and a few others, Yondor explained the rounds it fired, and the mechanism it used to reload and cock. It had a faron coil spring behind the muzzle, that provided the force of the shot, the action slid back, and lifted another round into the muzzle from a magazine that held one hundred rounds loaded on top of a plate and flat spring. Like an antique firearm. The difference was this fired a one-meter-long, fifteen centimeter round through a rifled barrel, it was a gun, but not one that operated with gun powder, the rounds were fired with a spring.
They had already set up a distance field to test the distance out to three kilometers. That was the first test, the round had sailed past the three kilometer mark and landed another two kilometers beyond. Whitlaw was shocked, all that velocity with a spring? Then they started the other tests. First firing it at different angles to see how much velocity and distance it lost as the pitch and altitude changed. It lost almost no distance until at seventy-five degrees. From there to ninety degrees it lost one kilometer in distance. He knew that it was almost as effective as a phase cannon in an atmosphere, now he needed to see it destructive power, and its accuracy. They found out that it was easily aimed, and was accurate up to forty-five degrees in elevation for the full five kilometers, it dropped to four kilometers at seventy-five degrees, and two and a half at ninety. He was impressed, now was the real test, how much destructive power did it posses with a fifteen centimeter round.
Four kilometers in the distance, was the side of a hill with a large tanzite deposit at the top, he aimed the gun at it and fired. The whole top of the hill disintegrated, he had all the test he needed. He ordered the guns built, and to train the rangers who had originally used the ballistae in the field to train on the new guns. Then he asked why they hadn’t converted the ballistae at the Temple, it was Yoran who answered. It is true that this new design is practical and applicable in a field firing situation with ships coming down and men on the ground, the Temple complex is still a place we all live and work, a gun with this kind of firepower, accidentally fired the in the wrong direction, could destroy our homes inadvertently. That made complete sense to him and he no longer questioned their logic.
They continued to prepare for the inevitable, they knew that the Marn would return. They were in much better shape to contend with the Marn than ever before. They had long distance armaments, they had all the innovations that Goran had made for their homes, they had everything they needed and it was more than they had ever had before. All he needed now was for Jason and Shandarro to return home safely and he would feel complete. He still felt the deep and sad loss of Shamira and Knala, and it would never not be a sad day when they thought about them. What they wanted to do, was to protect the people from it happening to anyone else. This was the reason he had formed the Guardians with Regulus to begin with.
He still had preparations to finish, and they had things to do, like printing the books, getting people trained, the Seers continuing to develop, and a host of other things that needed to be done. He had the Scouts out at their areas, working to keep track of any Marn incursions that may happen. They had supplies to fill in, and they always had to train. That was what he focused on to keep from thinking of his own losses.