Caine’s Mutiny – Snippet 01

Caine’s Mutiny – Snippet 01

Caine’s Mutiny

By Charles E. Gannon

Note, please see Snippet 00 for a link to the first 18 chapters.

Chapter Nineteen

Iarzut’thruk, BD+56 2966 Two (“Turkh’saar”)

Silent Voice gestured Yaargraukh forward into the circle, who kept his head bowed as he complied, thereby signifying that he was not putting his words up to the proof of a Challenge, but was responding to the request of the convenor of the Council to make a report to all its members.

Yaargraukh began without the customary salutations and preamble. “Half a year ago, just months after our hibernaculae were returned from Earth, strange reports began filtering in from Turkh’saar’s far northeastern Fringelands. Several rovers disappeared without trace in the same week a dencote was found abandoned and rifled. The reports were brought here to the Clanhall. The events were deemed to be related. It was conjectured that a few of the missing rovers had gone rogue, possibly after killing the others in a dispute, and had resorted to living Out-Law and raiding. Your son Jrekhalkar took the prudent step of recruiting several Warders from among the ranks of the local families, who were sent to investigate the matter and attempt to locate the missing rovers.

“They did not find any Hkh’Rkh living Out-Law, nor did they discover any trace of the rovers. However, they did hear rotary wing vehicles in the far distance on several occasions. Since none remained in the colony after the Slaasriithi raids targeted all our aerial vehicles from orbit, it was supposed that last year’s shift-carrier from Rkh’yaa had landed some troops and vertibirds covertly.”

O’akhdruh may have glanced briefly at Jrekhalkar. “And why would forces from our home world not announce themselves to the colonial authorities, Yaargraukh?”

“It was conjectured that they might be under orders to remain unannounced, if their mission was to surreptitiously monitor and guard the Site.”

“And did you agree with this explanation?”

“I did not disagree with it. There seemed no alternative explanation at the time. But I was at pains to point out that, even if unannounced Warriors from our homeworld had eliminated the Out-Law rovers, the other matter of the stripped dencote remained a mystery.”

“And what reply was given to this exception?”

“That while anomalous, it was still explicable. Perhaps the Out-Law rovers had stripped it before they were found and dispatched by the Warriors.”

“But you felt this unlikely?”

“I felt it wanting of further investigation.”

“Why?”

“Firstly, if the Warriors were ordered to both guard the Site and to remain unnoticed, they would not have been conducting unnecessary security missions more than one-hundred and fifty kilometers north of their areas of operations. Secondly, it made no sense that the dencote was stripped so clean by rogue rovers. They would not have burdened themselves with every unattached object they found in the warren. Those who live Out-Law must live and travel as lightly as possible, or they will be caught.”

Neither O’akhdruh’s voice nor posture suggested that he considered these conclusions dubious. “And did you point out these peculiarities to the leadership here in Iarzut’thruk?”

“I did.”

O’akhdruh did not look at his sole surviving son, but his pause suggested that he had to gather himself again before continuing. “And no action was taken?”

“None.”

“And did you not press your concerns?”

“My observations were not always welcome. Besides, in defense of those who heard them, there was no logical path of subsequent inquiry. We were confronted with peculiar disappearances and circumstantial evidence, but it did not point at any other hypothesis. And I had none of my own to offer.”

“So you did not suspect a human invasion at this point?”

“No one did, Revered O’akhdruh. There was no reason to. However, that changed approximately a week after our upland Warders returned. A significant attack was made upon the westernmost clancote, Gad’aglahkh. Its Voice reported the attack by radio, including mention of rotary wing vehicles before his transmission ended abruptly. Those of us with military or militia experience moved quickly to reach the site, but it was still a three day drive.

“As we feared, there were no survivors. Like the dencote, the settlement had been completely stripped of removable objects. However, the most striking after-action discovery was the massive use of unprecedentedly small bore weapons. Both our Warriors and Unhonored were riddled with such wounds.” Yaargraukh paused, remembering. “The others in our team were perplexed. But I had seen these gunshot wounds before.”

“On Earth,” O’akhdruh murmured. It was not a guess; he had been there, too.

“Yes. It was also evident that a wide variety of such weapons had been used, ultimately confirmed by post-mortem removal and examination of several bullets.”

O’akhdruh started. “Why was that necessary? Were there no shell casings?”

“Almost none. The few we found had slipped through cracks or fallen into herpeculture ditches. The attackers had collected the spent casings.”

O’akhdruh’s eyes half-disappeared into leathery folds of consternation. “To conceal their identity.”

“Perhaps. Or to facilitate reloading.”

“You suspect they were short on ammunition?”

“In a manner of speaking. Frankly, I am surprised they had any ammunition at all, considering some of the calibers we discovered.”

“I do not understand the significance of your comment.”

“Revered O’akhdruh, you were on Earth. You saw the weapons that the insurgents used in the last hours: tens of thousands of the assault rifle that the human history books designate the ‘AK-47.'”

“I recall. You found those cartridge casings at this site?”

“Those, and others even more peculiar. A British round called a .303. A German round that is designated the 7.98 millimeter Mauser.”

O’akhdruh’s eyefolds puckered even more profoundly. “I have never heard of these.”

“Nor would I have, had I not made the study of human military affairs my specialty. That was the primary reason I was selected as Advocate: so that I might also serve as an advisor regarding Earth’s military doctrines and technologies.”

“And so, this ammunition: are they specialized rounds of some kind? Hunting or sniper calibers, perhaps?”

“No, they are relics. Museum objects, originally developed for early machine guns and bolt-action rifles almost 250 years ago.”

O’akhdruh leaned back slightly, then glanced at his son, none too pleased. Evidently, Jrekhalkar had not had the time, or heart, to fully explain these inconsistencies to his sire, who had now been put in the compromising position of appearing surprised. “Although the weapons whereby the humans perpetrate their atrocities against Turkh’saar are immaterial to their guilt and our response, I perceive why you feel it prudent to make note of these…oddities. Did you conduct further research into them?”

“We did, and unfortunately, we did not want for opportunities. Within the week, the human attacks mounted in scope and savagery. They utterly despoiled the clancote of Sysh’khmar and then twice attacked the town of Haakh’haln. My team arrived four hours after the second strike, which was the most anomalous of all their attacks to date, and marked a change in the character of their operations.”

“How so?”

“It is easier to show you the answer than explain it. Please flip down the monocular playback lens of your dioptiscopes, scions. I will share scenes retrieved from our casualties’ helmet cams.”

As O’akhdruh pawed feebly at his dioptiscope, he pony-nodded. “It was fortunate, indeed, that our slain Warriors were equipped to record the events.”

When Yaargraukh didn’t say anything, Raakhshaan of the moiety of Ukhvurashn, one of his few friends in the Clanhall and a fellow Fringelander, hastened to “help” him. “It was not good fortune, Revered O’akhdruh, but good planning. Yaargraukh sent word to all the eastern communities that their Warriors should wear video-capable dioptiscopes whenever they were on duty, with the feed relayed to a central recorder. That way –”

 

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One Response to Caine’s Mutiny – Snippet 01

  1. Robert H. Woodman says:

    I wonder if that “help” is going to hurt a lot.

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