Obsidian Command

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Milk Run: The Devil's Golden Bowl

Posted on 16 Feb 2022 @ 7:31pm by Commander Calliope Zahn

Mission: M2 - Sanctuary
Location: Planet Obsidian, Taragi-Shar Mountains, The Devil's Golden Bowl
Timeline: MD12 ~0740
1152 words - 2.3 OF Standard Post Measure

The pleasure of seeing the sun again was cut short by the bustle of crowded prisoners as the few dozen Calliope had traveled alongside merged into a sea of others likewise being forced from the mouths of caverns nearby. With her Universal Translator off it was all chaotic shouting and pressure. She wasn’t sure what was being demanded of them by the sword wielding men and barely managed not to be trampled.

So many. There were so many. She couldn’t count the heads. It was as though they were a crowd for a major stadium. Unlike those she was with who could not have traveled more than a few days before collecting her in their number, most seemed much more frail, malnourished and dressed in tatters. She wondered if they had been kept underground and for how long. She supposed them to be mostly the Turani tribes people that were being herded into this space. Dotted among them were other alien refugees, primarily Romulans. No doubt they had relocated to the world illegally while Obsidian Command had gone missing and movements in the system were mostly unmonitored. In seeking out a new home away from deadly turmoil in their own space they’d gone from frying pan to fire. Children wailed, people cried out. Calliope tried to catch the elderly grandmother under the arm but found she relied just as much on Grandmother Juhtama if not more. Between the both of them, somehow they managed not to be crushed under foot.

She was in awe as she squinted against the sun. The space they were in was something akin to an amphitheater, bowl formed, and completely golden yellow. All around were outlets from the mountain caverns through which lines of other prisoners were being shouted at, whipped and brutalized into submission.

It wasn’t difficult to tell the Noroc Tchuru from the rest. They had a different style of robes, all of them with a certain way of sashing that crossed the chest. Besides that there was the obvious difference: they were all armed, primarily with blades. She turned her head and got a look around the borders of this bowl form. Dotted along the lip she could make out distant forms and she supposed them to be archers. Other than that she could see no ranged weapons, and nothing like a phaser.

She was convincing herself they were hardly to be feared if this mass of a crowd could orient itself against their oppressors. They would have to accept the likelihood of some tragic losses of life in exchange for overwhelming the guards. But just as she was trying to sort out how to communicate as much, let alone foment the rebellion, threatening new forms came over the rise, their monstrous silhouettes cutting darkly against the bright sky.

They were giant bugs and Calliope’s first instinct was to recoil at their intimidatingly fast and alien movement. They poured down the sides of the golden pit and she realized each beetle, the size of a hover car, had a rider in bright white clothes. Calliope recognized the beetle mounts from a page in her naturalist’s guide, but seeing them in person was another matter entirely. She gaped. The beetles’ mandibles started up a terrible noise as they ran, like some kind of sawing, grinding buzz that deafened and cowed the prisoners. Everyone around fell to their knees and Calliope realized as Grandmother Juhtama yanked on her arm that it must have been an order given and expected to be obeyed. As much as she hated it, she complied like all the rest.

Kneeling, Calliope cusped a hand over her heart and hoped. “Any time now…”

The beetle riders circled in a spiral around the walls of the bowl, likely for maximum intimidation. Calliope's teeth bared against the awful noise. A path was made clear from one of the cavern mouths. She noticed that it was one of several with actual gates built into it. On each of the black gated doors was painted an icon of a sun— the symbol for Loki and the one usually denoting the ancient Law of Sunstorm Truce. But these were different. For one, they were rendered in red where she had only before seen them in white or golden tones. And in the center of these was painted an icon of an eye. The gates were heavy and old and they were worked open with much effort of several men on either side.

Another beetle emerged from the gate, the black and green iridescence of its carapace glinting jewel-like in the morning sun. Its rider wore the russet red robes Calliope had seen on the city elder who had schooled her at the party. But she didn’t think it was him from his form and bearing. This one was older, with a white beard, a leathered face, and a kind of hook to his shoulders. His head was encircled with a shining ring, like a thin crown; he had an ornate mantle over his shoulders and he wielded a wooden staff of some elegant design. Under other circumstances, Calliope would have thought him very dignified and sage looking.

One of the arriving mounted riders converged on the path with the one from the gate. The grinding from the surrounding beetles ceased very suddenly and besides the cry of babes, there was no stir from the people.

The man in white dismounted, and Calliope saw the front of his white robes was splattered in dried, iron-rich blood; He had a bundled form in his arms. Giving a report of something which Calliope couldn’t make out, he knelt low, laid the bundle on the ground and pulled back the wrappings. Another wail of a baby joined the rest, arms and legs flailing

From atop his mount, the red-robed man pointed sharply around and gave orders. Swords were drawn. The guards began brutally casting aside people in search of certain ones.

It became clear to Calliope that they were rounding up Romulan men. Another rider dismounted and she saw he had a decades outdated starfleet science or medical case in hand. He began blood sampling. Calliope was affronted by the whole process. Were they running a paternity test?

Leivad. They were searching for Leivad.

Whatever results they were looking for, they began to cut down each Romulan they finished with. Calliope had to close her eyes and turn away, as many others also did, sobbing. The bodies of the men were dragged away by their feet and collected in the sands to be left to the work of the elements and the creatures sure to pick them for flesh when the crowds had gone. Calliope cried for them with the rest of the Turani. But as near as she could tell, they had not discovered Leivad yet. Otherwise, the horror might have ended...

 

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