Creative

The Ahavah Chapter XII: Accord

“Don’t the sun look angry through the trees? / Don’t the trees look like crucified thieves? / Don’t you feel like Desperados under the eaves? / Heaven help the one who leaves. ”
— Warren Zevon, “Desperados Under the Eaves”

Read previous chapters here:
Ch 1     Ch 2     Ch 3     Ch 4

Ch 5     Ch 6     Ch 7     Ch 8

Ch 9     Ch 10    Ch 11

1

“You have aged, Moshe. It’s more than years. There’s a haunting — an emptiness — in your eyes. What happened to you? Why are you with these men?” I nearly spit the words out at my brother.

“You don’t look all that well either, Yara. You are too skinny. Father would’ve scolded you.”

He looked hurt at my biting remark, but I could not understand why my brother was helping these outliers. I ignored the issue for the time being, knowing I didn’t have long until we made it to the leader of this group outside the Cosmodrome’s main building. “Moshe, are our parents alive?” I feared the answer I knew he would give.

“No, Yara. The Sickness took them. It took almost everyone. I don’t know why we are the ‘lucky’ ones, if you can call us lucky, but there aren’t many of us left. People.” The desolation in his face became even more pronounced. I sensed that my brother had lived countless lifetimes while I orbited the Sickness-ravaged Earth.

“My family, Moshe. What about my kids? My husband?” I could hardly breathe after the question fell out of my mouth.

“I’m so sorry, Yara. Of course you don’t know. My God. They succumbed early on. Father was the last. He….he was distraught. He couldn’t help any of them. They’re all gone.” Before he had a chance to embrace me, I fell to my knees. I buried my head in my hands. I wept. I had always suspected this truth, but faced with it then, I crumbled. It was involuntary. I felt shame at the pain I showed those men who had just taken us prisoner. The tears fell independently of my wishes to show strength.

One of the outliers moved to grab and lift me to my feet, taking me by the arm. At that moment, the young man in charge of this small group barked an order to the the outlier who had grabbed me. The outlier immediately released me, and allowed me to fall back to the floor. He stepped away from me. The young leader then spoke to Moshe in slow and deliberate Kazakh.

To me, Moshe translated: “Sanzhar told the one who grabbed you to let you weep a moment, Yara. He said you are just learning your family is dead. He said you do not have long to mourn, though. A moment, only. He says that none of the rest of us had time to mourn, either.” Moshe then put his arms around me on the floor, and hugged my shoulders.

I looked up at the man named Sanzhar, who though young, had a face already marked by lines around his dark eyes. His longish black hair was unwashed and greasy looking. Still, his eyes were not completely hard as he looked into mine. There was a hint of compassion that I found myself grateful for, despite that this man had attacked the Cosmodrome, and us.

My brother then told me briefly of returning to Gagarin City from Moscow after my launch from the Cosmodrome on The Ahavah. He was lost, he said. He did not know what else to do. So he took up with this gang of outliers — the Dizel Uldar — and had been with them ever since. I knew he had seen and done things that would make me weep both for him and the victims of his gang of bandits.

2

“So, Moshe, this is your sister,” the man said, in heavily accented English. “Welcome back to Earth, Yara Harel.”

We had made our way back outside to the site of the main fighting. Dead men and bullet holes littered the ground and buildings around us. The man before me, Balga, was tall — over 2 meters — and built like roughly-molded and hardened clay. He was dense and thick and knotted, age having blurred his muscles, but not erased them. His beard was past his chin, and squared off, mostly a dark grey color, as if age was waging a war on his facial hair as well as on his body.

His eyes were intelligent, but flat and opaque, like what I imagined a shark’s eyes might look like. I did my best to muster the courage to confront this man. “What do you want with us,” I managed to say to Balga, doing my best to meet his eyes.

“To business then,” he replied, eyes never leaving mine. Moshe, Costa, and the outliers surrounding us gave us both space, as though none of them wanted to get too close to our parlay. “We have long sought to take this space port, Yara. As you all have shown, though sadly for, you without success, it is a defensible and advantageous location. Once you and your ship landed, we decided the time had come to seize it.”

“So you just needed a place to live? Did you ever think to just ask us if you could move onto the Cosmodrome complex? Did that ever occur to you? You have killed good men and women here.” I was angry and it was giving me courage to defy the imposing figure before me.

“That is not how things work now,” he said, unmoved by my insolence. “We take what we need, and we defend ourselves from others who would do the same. None of that is of relevance, though. This is ours now, as is that.” He was pointing at The Ahavah, which sat off in the near distance, on the runway.

“You want my ship?” I was genuinely bewildered by that. “Why?”

“It’s not your ship we want, young woman. It is the reactor on your ship. And you are going to make it work for us.”

3

I listened to Balga explain his reasoning and reluctantly, unstated but in my own head, I acknowledged the logic in his plan. He and his group of “diesel boys,” as they were called by themselves and rival groups in the area — given that they controlled large quantities of the fuel at a service and storage station that was their base — planned to harness the power of the reactor. They knew their hydrocarbon fuel would one day run out, and they saw the reactor as a source of both literal and figurative power. Power that would last for ages.

“So, let me summarize what you are saying,” I said to him, as we continued to stand on what had become a battlefield, on land that so recently used to belong to the Cosmodrome and its inhabitants. “You have hundreds of thousands of gallons of diesel fuel, but you want me to help you to harness the power of The Ahavah’s reactor to supply power to you and your men for a lifetime. If I agree, you will let us stay here, at the space port, in what will become a garrison run by you and your men. And you will not harm any more of the Cosmodrome’s personnel.”

“It is really your only choice,” he said to me. “You are lucky to have this choice. We will keep you safe and you will find that we are not such terrible men. You can learn to live among us.”

I looked over to Costa, whose face showed skepticism and defiance. Back to Balga, I said, “I will do it. But I need Costa to help me, and I insist that my brother also be allowed to be with us as we work. Those are my terms, in addition to the safety of the others.”

Costa’s eyes widened, and I knew that he in no way wanted to help these men. I ignored him. I awaited Balga’s reply to my terms.

“Moshe, your sister is wise. I knew we could make her see reason. I agree to these terms. You shall have Moshe and this Costa, as well as my lieutenant Sanzhar and a garrison of my men here with you, to protect you and make sure our agreement is followed. You will get to work immediately.”

Costa moved toward me, looking as though he planned to object. I motioned for him with my hand to wait, and told Balga, “There is one more thing. To make this work, we will need access to some of your diesel fuel. Costa can explain it when the time comes. Do you agree?”

“If I believe this Costa that you need the fuel to make the reactor work, then you shall have the fuel. Sanzhar will relay any messages to me. He is in charge.” The young lieutenant conveyed nothing in his glance at me. He stood with his arms folded, and stared at me.

4

Costa, Moshe, and I were on board The Ahavah, alone for the first time with none of Balga’s men within earshot.

“What the hell are you thinking, Yara?” Costa was angry, and I understood why. “These men are animals. They’ll use us and then do God knows what with us afterward.” Michael was almost shaking, and his face showed the desperation he felt.

“Michael, you have to trust me,” I said, keeping my voice low. “I have an idea. It’s crazy, but I think we can do it. I need your help.”

Costa looked at me, a question on his lips, though he did not know what exactly to ask me. Moshe weighed in first, “What are you thinking, Yara? Balga is not a man to play games with. I think your agreement with him is the best possible outcome. I am sorry, Michael, but it is.”

“Both of you have to trust me,” I said. “First, I need to make comms with Brett again, on the Lunar Habitat.”

I dialed in the Habitat and attempted to communicate with Brett using the ship’s onboard comms. “Brett, this is Yara, over.”

I waited, this time knowing that he would answer me. “Yara, Brett, I read you loud and clear. What the hell is happening there, over?”

“Brett, I will explain soon. We are safe, for now, but in some trouble. I want to tell you, though. I have a plan. I’m coming to get you.”

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Miche
Miche
1 month ago

The saga continues! <3
I’m calculating how much diesel it takes to rescue a man from the moon… and find that I need more dots to connect. 😉

Susan H
Susan H
1 month ago

Thank you, Fru! I was excited to see an email in my Inbox saying that the great Frumentarius had added to his legendary saga (or words to that effect…) And now for the next instalment!

Last edited 1 month ago by susanh
Mason
Mason
29 days ago

Ahhh Fru, thank you sir!! I love how you fleshed out (literally) Balga, and Yara is certainly taking up the mantle to save humanity from this fella – but I have a feeling it will be far more complex and nuanced than that!

Thanks again sir, such a great read!

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