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Children of Prosperity (Part 3, Conclusion)
Cairn’s Log 9/3/2235: Stevens informed me that Kallkir and Proteus haven’t returned from a hunting expedition. To make matters worse the ten hybrids deemed dangerous by Allkir and me have escaped from their observation cells. The delayed frowns on parents’ faces did little to belie the hopeful glint in most of their eyes; their sons and daughters must be homesick. I suspect they are hiding near the village, without crystal spears they can’t hunt the big game needed to survive. I’ll send out two scout ships to scour the terrain and Sallkir will lead the search parties.
Cairn’s Log 9/4/2235: Sallkir found Kallkir’s corpse mauled. Stevens collapsed, whimpering in tears.
“Where’s my Proteus? Where’s my son?”
I didn’t know what to say, it wasn’t evident but I had already made up my mind about Proteus.
More and more parents are calling me; their frantic incoherent pleas all amount to the same message.
“My baby is gone, you need to find him.”
Sallkir missed his last check in.
Cairn’s Log 9/5/2235: The pilot reported a massive bond-fire three miles outside of town. I recognized Sallkir’s charred corpse lying beside the black mass. The fact that no hybrids were among the dead suggests that there was not a struggle. I’ve stationed armed guards along the walls and at every entrance and exit to the village. The look on their faces said it all. I might as well have jettisoned them into space without a suit. Even if they were prepared to shoot their children, they would likely be impaled by a spear before they switched off the safety. Every hybrid over the age of ten has fled. The lines of parents outside my dwelling are huge but not all of them by a long shot.
Cairn’s Log 9/6/2235: I now know why some parents neglected to report their missing children. Patrols sent to check in on all hybrid homes transmitted back that some appeared vacant. A look inside revealed that parents had been slain in their hammocks, stabbed while asleep. I quarantined all the remaining young hybrids in observation cells. The crew stands in disbelief, the parents sit in denial, and most of the Alk chant in an ethereal prayer. I urged Allkir to warn the nearest villages, a half continent away.
“What shall I tell them?”
“Just tell them.”
Cairn’s Log 9/7/2235: The crystal energy well has been destroyed. Only necessities, like the holding cells, are being powered. The hundred or so young hybrids still in custody are crazed with fury. There is no precedent for this, no advice from Central Command. I find myself sitting with a gun in my lap, wondering whether I shouldn’t save them the trouble. I reassigned guard posts to those without children late last night only to find every guard dead in the morning. The hybrids have commandeered the small fighter ships. Our own ingenuity made that feat possible.
Cairn’s Log 9/8/2235: We have taken refuge inside the flagship. Only 50 of us made it. They came silently and picked away half the village until they released the young ones whose howling alerted us all.
I watched Stevens die. He tried to wrestle the javelin from Proteus. His son’s pupils narrowed vertically as three others stabbed his father from the side. They sacked the village with the prejudice of barbarians. They had no torches; they did not need flames to see us with their glowing blue orbs. The Alk simply stood in droves to be slaughtered. Then the ships rained death from the sky; the explosions of shrapnel did not drown out the howling. They followed us in our flight cutting down those in the rear. Looking ahead to the ship I saw bombs drop on the exhaust ports, there was no chance of flying. I retracted the entrance ramp as a spear plunged into my leg. Most of the crew looks on as I wave off help from the doctor. I attempt to stand only to be thrown down by the rattling of bombs against the hull. I draw my handgun, the only weapon left. Their eyes dart to it like the starving man darts to a half-eaten apple. The same thought crosses all our minds, a desperate reprieve from a desperate situation. I hurl it into their midst, none of them move for it but all of them watch it.
“Now we wait.”