aun Deuil Sjir’phal prowled the bloody decks of his ark. His. There were still pockets of resistance. Mostly stubborn oun Shi’ehli and the occasional deluded aun Deuil. He did not take their fervor lightly. They fought valiantly. He wondered how things went on the other arks. He couldn’t use the intercom to contact aun P’ata’lyh or aun Pasia’h. He would give his position away to the enemy. Their abysma failure on the planet should have convince the opposition of the folly of the old ways, but no one wanted to give up their power it seemed. He huffed a silent laugh.
He turned a corner and came face-to-face with an oun Shi’ehl. This one was young and impossibly beautiful, with silver down and bright blue eyes. It crouched immediately, making itself a small target.
“Stand down,” aun Deuil Sjir’phal said with as much authority as he could muster.
Indecisiveness crowded the other emotions in the oun Shi’ehl’s eyes.
“Listen to me, oun Shi’ehl,” aun Deuil Sjir’phal said. “I am aun Deuil Sjir’phal–“
“I know who you are,” the young oun Shi’ehl spat. “Blasphemer!”
“Your gods have forgotten you, oun Shi’ehl,” aun Deuil Sjir’phal stated blandly. “We have lost the battle for the planet and we are a dying race–“
The oun Shi’ehl snarled. “How quickly you give up, coward!”
Despair filled aun Deuil Sjir’phal when he realized he would have to kill the young Shi’ehl.
He took a step forward and then they were circling each other like a moon around a planet. The oun Shi’ehl suddenly lunged forward and swung his curved dagger. aun Deuil Sjir’phal bent his back. The dagger came so close, he felt the air of its passing along the down on his face. The Shi’ehl was young but deadly, as were all of his gender. Even though the aun Deuili were the soldiers of their race, none fought like the oun Shi’ehli. They were a warrior race, but the smaller oun Shi’ehli carried the young in their pouches and had to be able to fight weighted down.
aun Deuil Sjir’phan took his eyes off the oun Shi’ehl when he heard a noise in the hallway. The oun Shi’ehl turned in a circle, lifting his leg and raking the deadly curved claws of his left foot along aun Deuil Sjir’phan’s chest. aun Deuil Sjir’phan grunted and slammed against the wall at his back. He didn’t bother to look at the wound. He knew it was shallow. The oun Shi’ehl was young and inexperienced. He should have disembowled aun Deuil Sjir’phal. Nevertheless, the wound hurt and wound interfere with his attention.
The oun Shi’ehl smiled, eyes fierce. “You are no match for me.”
aun Deuil Sjir’phal straightened, pushing himself away from the wall. “We’ll see.”
“Surrender and face an honorable death.”
“Your sect knows no honor,” aun Deuli Sjir’phal spat
The young oun Shi’ehl bristled. He hissed, his tail lashing out behind him.
aun Deuil Sjir’phal refrained from smirking. He was impetuous and passionate, the young Shi’ehl. He would be easier to kill.
They stepped to the center of the hallway and the oun Shi’ehl took a swing at him with his dagger. aun Deuil Sjir’phal ducked and attacked when his opponent attempted to correct his overbalance. aun Deuil Sjir’phal unsheathed his own, longer dagger. He swung his dagger with the ham of his hand out, along the oun Shi’ehl’s midriff. The oun Shi’ehl jumped out of reach and aun Sjir’phal straightened.
The oun Shi’ehl smiled. “It is only a mattter of time before my colleagues find me.”
“It is equally assured my colleagues will find me,” aun Deuil Sjir’phal spat. He was growing sick of this.
They came closer together, circling each other again. aun Deuili Sjir’phal bent his knees and swung his right leg in a wide arc. He was gratified to see the young oun Shi’ehl’s eyes widen with surprise before aun Deuil Sjir’phal swept this feet from under him. aun Deuil Sjir’phal knelt on the oun Shi’ehl’s chest.
“Drop your weapon,” aun Deuil Sjir’phal growled.
oun Shi’ehl smiled serenely, lunged up with far greater strength than aun Deuil Sjir’phal thought their gender had, and plunged his dagger into aun Deuil Sjir’phal’s side, twisting it for good measure.
aun Deuil Sjir’phal wondered distantly if the wound was deadly.
He lifted his dagger and plunged it into the oun Shi’ehl’s throat, twisting it also and then cutting sideways until the head was half cut off from the body.
aun Deuil Sjir’phal sat panting, his hand to the wound at his side, which was sticky and wet with blood. He fet sick and lightheaded.
He heard it from a distance.
He watched with detachment as aun Deuili P’ata’lyh knet next to him.
“How goes the resistance?” he heard himself ask.
“We fight in pockets still,” his comrade told him. “Let me get you to the infirmary.”
“First, secure the nursery,” he ordered faintly. “Then finish the opposition quickly. Don’t drag this out.”
“Yes, aun Deuil,” his friend murmured.
He rose to give the orders to the aun Deuili who had accompanied him. Then he motioned to another aun Deuil and together they picked aun Deuil Sjir’phal up and carried him through the long, curving halls to the infirmary.
The nieh bouel in charge of the infirmary gave a hiss of distress when nieh saw aun Deuil Sjir’phal.
“Lay him on the cot,” nieh said in its clear, high voice.
They laid him on the cot, jostling him enough he had to bite back the groan that rose up his throat.
aun Deuil P’ata’lyh turned to the other soldier. “Stand guard outside the door, aun Deuil.”
The guard saluted and hurried to comply.
The nieh bouel removed aun Deuil Sjir’phal’s helmet then cut the flexible vest they used as armor with a scalpel. aun Deuil watched distantly, wondering if the nieh bouel felt disgust, for the armor was made with treated boueli skin. aun Deuil Sjir’phal felt shame and turned his face away from the gentle gaze of the neuter.
The nieh bouel cleaned the wound with reconstituted water and soap before patting it dry and applying disinfecting agents. The astringent smell of the medicines mingled with the sharper smell of blood.
“Will he survive?” aun Deuil P’ata’lyh demanded.
The nieh bouel grunted. “If he survives infection. I must sew the wound.”
aun Deuil Sjir’phal readied himself for the procedure. He glanced at his friend.
“Go see about the nursery,” he murmured.
aun Deuil P’ata’lyh seemed about to disobey, but his features smoothed out and he bowed, fist to chest. “Ye! Right away.”
When he had gone, aun Deuil Sjir’phal glanced at the nieh bouel. “I led the revolt partly for your gender.”
The nieh bouel raised an eyebrow.
“Your kind has been treated abysmally, nieh bouel. Perhaps not you yourself–“
The nieh bouel threaded a needle then held the needle over the open flame of a bunsen burner. He then bent over aun Deuil Sjir’phal and began to sew the gaping wound.
aun Deuil Sjir’phal hissed and grasped the edges of the cot. He broke out in a sweat and grew dizzy. He closed his eyes and cleared his mind.
When he was done, the nieh bouel used the scalpel to cut the thread. He set the needed in a small tray to be disinfected.
aun Deuil Sjir’phal gazed up distantly at the nieh bouel. “You’ve nothing to say?”
His voice sounded reed-thin to his ears.
The nieh bouel went to the long table against the wall and poured a substance from a vial into a cup, bringing the cup to the cot.
“Drink this, aun Deuil,” he said. “It will ease the pain.”
aun Deuil Sjir’phal drank the bitter medicine and grimace, swinging his legs over the side of the cot.
“This is not advisable,” the nieh bouel murmured.
aun Deuil Sjir’phal huffed a laugh. “So many things are not. Thank you for your care.”
The nieh bouel looked startled and took a step backward.
aun Deuil Sjir’phal rose slowly, hand to side. He made his way to the hall, where the aun Deuil stood guard.
The soldier saluted him.
“We go to the nursery,” aun Deuil Sjir’phal told him. “Then we find out how much opposition remains.”
The soldier saluted again. “Yes, aun Deuil!”
The nursery had four guards out front. They saluted when aun Deuil Sjir’phal walked up.
“Are the kits safe?” aun Deuil Sjir’phal asked.
“Ye, aun Deuil,” one of the guards replied. “As are the caregivers.”
aun Deuil stepped into the quiet nursery. aun Deuil P’ata’lyh stood inside and the kits stood in a corner, arms around their caregivers.
“No harm will come to you,” aun Deuil Sjir’phal told them firmly.
He counted 10 kits. Not enough to replace all the ones who had perished in the uprising.
Each little face turned to him with curiousity or fear, depening on his nature.
With great effort, he walked to the corner where they lingered and went down on one knee.
“It is alright now, little ones,” he told them. “We are almost done with this.”
He looked at each face and wondered if he had doomed his parent to death.
The nieh bouels who cared for them watched him with some defiance.
He chuffed. “Are you going to fight me to preserve the kits’ lives, nieh boueli?”
None of the five nieh boueli dropped their gazes. He felt respect for their gender for the first time in his life.
“Our parents?” one little kit piped up.
An aun Deuil, with a high crest and clear amber eyes.
“You will know soon,” he promised the kit. “If your parent opposed us, they may have died.”
A few mewled distressingly.
“You have the entire ship filled with parents for you,” he told them. “You have your caregivers. Do not fear. You are Sha’jeen!”
One or two of the kits raised their chins. He huffed a laugh when he saw their pride and courage.
He heard a commotion out in the hall and then the door was sliding open.
He rose with care and turned to face the strange aun Deuil. “What is it?”
“A strange shuttle approaches, aun Deuil!” the newcomer reported.
aun Deuil Sjir’phal shared a look with aun Deuil P’ata’lyh.
“I will come to the bridge,” he replied. He looked at his friend again. “End the opposition. Use the laser weapons.”
aun Deuil P’ata’lyh saluted. “Right away, aun Deuil!”
He looked at the aun Deuil who had just arrived. “Lead the way to the bridge.”
“Ye, aun Deuil.”