Creative

The Ahavah VIII: Recontact

“I’ll throw rocks at your window from the street, and we’ll call ourselves the flagship of the fleet.”
— Jason Isbell, “Flagship”

Read previous chapters here:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

1

It had been 14 days since the space craft had landed at Baikonur. The novelty had worn off only a little, as we became accustomed to the reality that a space-going vessel had returned to Earth. Preparations for the raid on the cosmodrome were nearly complete. Balga and the lieutenants of the Diezel Uldar had planned meticulously, conceptualizing and then discarding numerous different operational concepts for the attack. They had finally settled on a nighttime raid, to be carried out when the moon was but a sliver in the night sky, in a few days time.

I was nervous. I did not want anyone to be hurt in the raid — a childish wish, I realized — but I was also captivated by the prospect that I would possibly learn more information about my sister, or even see her, as a result of the raid. I told myself the odds of the ship being hers where not high, but still my hope and anticipation won out over my attempts at logical analysis. Yara might be mere miles away.

The afternoon of the day we were supposed to carry out the raid, all activities in the compound ceased, with the exception of battle preparations. Ammunition was reloaded, assignments were made, roles were rehearsed, and Balga kept a keen eye on all of his lieutenants and how they drilled their men for the coming raid.

Balga seemed satisfied with the preparations, and almost giddy with his own anticipation. The cosmodrome at Baikonur had long been a target he coveted, as he envied its defensive fortifications, the shelter it could provide, its probable cache of supplies, and — since the space craft had landed — the likely presence of a small, rugged, functioning nuclear reactor within its walls. It was power, both literal and figurative.

Late in the afternoon, as all of the Diezel Uldar gathered inside our compound to eat some food and make final preparations, we were to a person shocked to hear the warning siren sound from the southernmost guard position on our compound wall. The hand-cranked siren wailed, and for a brief few seconds I simply stared dumfounded at Sanzhar, my lieutenant, with questions in my eyes.

Sanzhar did not waste those few precious seconds in wonder, as I did. He leapt up from his spot at the table and began to bellow orders to his men. I assumed all of Balga’s lieutenants did the same.

“Defensive positions! Now!” That was the jolt we all needed to move, as it dawned on me and likely all of my fellow Outliers simultaneously that we must be under attack. Not three seconds after this realization, we heard the first rifle cracks and explosions, coming from outside the walls. Who would be foolish enough to attack us inside our fortified walls? We had not seen such an assault in at least two years. We had come to see ourselves as untouchable within our own walls.

2

In the end, the raid on our compound was ineffectual and foolish. The assaulting party of Outliers, from what we could gather through interrogation of survivors we had captured, came from a roving band that had made its way south from the region of Kostanay some 1,000 kilometers north of us. Had they known the nature of our defenses, our weaponry, and our experience in fighting rival groups, they might have thought twice about trying to take our compound.

As it was, we slaughtered them. It took no more than a few hours, and cost many casualties on the other side. Comparatively, we lost only a few on our own side. We beat back the assault, and maintained the integrity of our security walls.

Still, despite our victory, the raid on the cosmodrome could not go forward that night. We had expended many rounds of ammunition, and the sounds of gunfire no doubt put the security forces at the cosmodrome on high alert. Balga postponed the raid, and set us to restocking ammunition, and tending to the dead and wounded.

The cosmodrome would have to wait.

3

I could hardly sleep the night Costa told me that we were ready to try a communications link with Brett the following day. I was anxious, impatient, and hopeful all at once. I feared he would not answer. I feared it would not work. I feared Brett was dead. All of these things raced through my mind that night, as I lay awake in my bed, my only blanket the sticky and stale nighttime Kazakh air.

It had been just over a week since we had heard what sounded like intense rifle fire and explosions coming from Gagarin City. Though the fighting seemed to be miles away, it still rattled me. I had heard sporadic gunfire now and then — Outliers fighting amongst themselves, as the American Michael Costa informed me — but such a sustained firefight made me realize that the post-Sickness world outside the safety of our walls was a deadly one. I thanked God for the protection of the space port.

We made final preparations in the morning, and by 11 A.M. local time we were ready to try the comms link with Brett and the Lunar Habitat. I sat in The Ahavah with Costa next to me, in the pilot’s chair, and depressed the transmit button.

“Brett, it’s Yara. Do you copy?” I could not allow myself to believe he would respond. I imagined the worst. I fought the urge to think him dead and alone up there on the cold, dark moon. I waited for what felt like minutes, but was only seconds.

“Yara, it’s Brett. My God, you made it. I can’t believe I’m hearing your voice. How do you copy?”

Tears rolled down my face, a sob tried to overtake me as I fought it back. I could hardly speak, but feared making him wait even an instant, frightened I would lose the link. “I read you loud and clear. I’m here. Your voice is just like I imagined it. How do you read me?”

“You’re loud and clear and the best thing I’ve ever heard in my life. I…I thought I had lost you. I thought the worst. Where are you?”

“I made it back to Baikonur. I landed and there are still people here. The cosmodrome is safe. I’m sorry it took so long to reach you. We had to modify the comms link. I’m safe. I’m here.”

“Yara, nothing could make me happier than to hear that. You have no idea how relieved I am. My God, it’s a miracle. Tell me about Earth. How bad is it?”

4

And so I told him. I told him all of it. I explained the death, the ruin, the desolation, and the Outliers. I told him of the hardship, but also of the hope, and the will to survive. We talked for what felt like minutes, but for what was really hours. We talked through dinner and sunset, and into the night. Neither of us wanted to break the link. It was as if we both feared we would never re-establish it. Neither of us could bring ourselves to sign off.

Brett asked me, “So what is next? Is there any way you can come up here and pick me off this damn rock?”

I laughed at his humor. He was in good spirits, but I knew that was probably fleeting, and that he was suffering extreme isolation up there. Before I could answer, I heard a smattering of rifle shots. It was close. And loud. “Brett, standby one. I might have a situation.”

I made my way to the hatch, and peered into the night sky in the direction of the gunfire. As I did so, I saw tracer fire light up the night sky. Then I heard an explosion and saw a hole appear in the wall, off in the distance.

We were under attack.

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rynosbucket
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rynosbucket

Still reading and still enjoying!!

Mason
Member
Mason

Oh man, you toy with us!! It ends with a breach in the perimeter wall! How could you!

Great installment Fru, thank you so much for this.

rynosbucket
Member
rynosbucket

AHHH Yeaaah!!

Mason
Member
Mason

I think Fru is like that guy who puts a dollar bill on the end of the fishing line . . . every time you get close, he chuckles while he yanks it just out of reach.

susanh
Member
susanh

Yay, Fru! Another instalment! So enjoying these. I hope you are able to post the next one soon.

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