Wages of War – Chapter 4 The Mission

Chapter 4                   The Mission

            I didn’t dare relate the visions of the night before to Cavan and Sonia as we sat in the mess hall of the Ecuadorian armored freighter. We sat down at a small table for four. The place was relatively deserted. Only a few crewmembers out of the dozens that man a vessel this size actually had the courage to volunteer for the trip. Now we were down by one – the captain.

            Inkaritath had thrown Captain Moralez into the brig like a petty thief. The crew wouldn’t talk about it. Who could blame them; the ship was practically under military control. Every corner seemed to have a Towhay warrior standing armed and ready to quell any resistance. Whatever this mission was in Inkaritath’s mind, it was worth risking and headway he had made with the few humans who trusted him. Cavan sat prodding his eggs benedict with a fork. His look was sullen and reserved. Sonia looked at the two of us with a want to say something, but every time she started to speak her words remained in her throat.

            The silent breakfast finished with the klaxon blaring and the sound of explosions off to our port side. It wasn’t our ship, but our sister vessel, the Resuelto. The helmsman’s voice rang out over the intercom, “We are under attack, I repeat, this is not a drill. We are under attack; one frigate to port and a dreadnaught fast approaching from the northeast. All hands t battle stations.”

         Fairies flew in all directions scrambling away from the sound of the klaxon and toward the din of battle. Cavan and Sonia headed for the bridge. I decided to get to the brig. I needed to find out why Inkaritath imprisoned our captain. Within the panic of attack, this would be my moment to find the truth behind Inkaritath’s “mission”.

            As I careened down the halls toward the brig, a thousand thoughts went through my head. The dream from the night prior was at the top of the list. Why England? Moreover, why Agent Carlin? None of this was making any sense. I had thought we were on a mission of peace: one to bring the two worlds together that had lived so long apart. Now, as the guns raged outside, and all were called to battle stations, I reached the door of the brig guarded by just one Towhay warrior.

            “You’re needed on the port side for defense. I’ve been sent by Inkaritath to relieve you.” I lied with what felt like a completely transparent and predictable fib.

            He contemplated this for a moment and nearly refused to go when the port side lurched toward the starboard indicating we’d just been hit. I couldn’t have asked for a better stroke of luck. Without a word, the Towhay warrior was off toward the battle. I stared at the door and its imposing looking double latch. Why was he in this place? What had I missed in the course of only a few hours?

          I thought that there must be a reason for his imprisonment. Inkaritath couldn’t have put him in this place without reason. I struggled with trying to understand what in God’s name that could have been. For a few seconds I stared at the door imagining what I may find behind it. Captain Moralez seemed fine when he volunteered for the job. He was in command over our caravan of three ships (knocked down to two, maybe less if this onslaught doesn’t stop). Summoning the courage to go in, I unlatched the door.

          Pulling the metal and wood away I was faced with a cage. Just past arms length inside the door was another the same shape, only barred. There were no windows, just a blank room Seated on the far side, was Captain Moralez. Propped up on a cot, he didn’t look real.

          “Captain, are you alright?” I whispered.

          He didn’t respond. “Captain, It’s me, Jules Dermsford, the young man with the glasses.” I tried to connect, But it was like speaking to a mannequin. The silence continued, the only sounds were the distant explosions. 

          “I know who you are.” The captain stated after what seemed eons without looking up and devoid of emotion. “You’re one of the ‘fairy talkers’.” This was the name the crew had given to myself, Cavan and Sonia because we spoke Harcos. He continued with a touch of acid in his voice, “What the hell do you want?”

           “I just wanted to know why you’re in here.”

          “Because I lied.”

          This took me off guard, I was suspecting something like disobeying Inkaritath’s wishes, Arguing over rescuing Cavan and I; some sort of insubordination. He rose from his seat and still did not look at me. His uniform was disheveled and his beard, usually trimmed very neatly was showing growth. He spoke again.

          “I omitted certain things when you all took me on as captain.” He said with no regretful tone, almost smugness. “I suppose I’m lucky to be merely thrown in the brig and not killed outright.” Now his enigmatic tone became almost unbearable.

          “What are you talking about? What lie could be so awful that you’d be killed?” The loaded question shot from my lips waiting for an equally loaded response. What I got was a shock to say the least. Moralez turned to reveal a wound on his chest. Some sort of burn. As he walked forward into the light of the Tesla lamps on the sides of the small passage between the hatch and his cage door, I could see that the burn had fused something to his chest. Once he was close enough, I had an involuntary gasp. A crucifix with a robed, crowned Christ figure holding a sword stared at me with it’s eyes carved in relief and gruesomely pressed into the Captain’s flesh.

          The symbol, once a necklace, now branded onto the chest was the mark worn with pride by the Christo Dominus Rex. They were a faction of Roman and Orthodox Catholics that believed fairies were the minions of Satan himself: false creations that look like man but are evil. There were only two ways “Dom Rexes” dealt with fairies – death or enslavement. They were the primary source for the devolution of the species from Inkaritath’s Great Ones to the garden-variety creatures which are eighty percent smaller than him and nothing but mindless insects.

          The Dom Rex faithful enslaved and down bred the fairies like ancient peoples domesticated and down bred dogs from domesticated wolves turned into toy poodles. As all of this poured into my head, the captain began to speak.

          “Yes. I am proudly a member of that noble society. If your abomination thought that by fusing my crucifix to me would deter me, he really is no smarter than his smaller cousins. I am more resolute now than ever that I am on the right side of this war. My father before me was part of the society and his before him. Now I am marked for my faith. God will reward me.” He stepped closer to the bars. “You and your friends are the ones who will burn in hellfire of damnation, not me. You would unleash these things onto our world; a world that my predecessors and I have kept safe from these minions of Satan for generations.”

          Only started to process this when the intercom light blared into the dim corridor.

          “All hands to battle stations, Dermsford, report to the bridge immediately!” Inkaritath’s voice railed from the tin box on the wall. I felt a tap at my shoulder from the fairy I had sent on a wild goose chase. None too pleased with me, he grunted and pointed toward the upper decks. Without a word, he slammed the hatch to the brig before I finished my questions. I was left with more queries than before and in more hot water than I wanted to be in.

          Entering the bridge, Inkaritath shot daggers at me from his solid black eyes. I assumed the brig guard had informed him of why he left his post. This was not going to be remotely pleasant. I could only hope that I would not be seen as a hindrance to his mission. It may buy me some time.

          “How stupid are you actually?” The Great One asked.

          “I don’t understand.” I feigned ignorance, not convincingly.

          “Did you think of me as a petty mutineer? That pictoth kithas is in the brig because he killed an antiquas.” He began his chiding. “Moralez acquired this position in order to get to me. The antiquas he killed died defending me from that man’s bullet. This has always been his plan. Infiltrate and destroy.”

          “I gathered after I saw him.” I replied.

          “So you’ve seen his chest. That was done so he may remember his place in this world. The very fires that forged that trinket were possible only because my people allowed yours to prosper and flourish under our guidance.” A mist of bullets passed by the main viewport. They were followed by a series of pings reminiscent of hail on a tin roof. I stepped forward to see what was happening on the sea below. The men on the frigate were firing machine guns up at us. The armor of the hull and shielded gasbag deflected the pitiful onslaught.

          Where there were cannons on the frigate deck, there was now nothing but a charred hull. Towhay flew frantically about the men. Like being in a fairy swarm, the panicked seamen shot without aim into the fog of winged bodies that surrounded them. Soon the swarm overtook the humans and the gunfire ceased from the frigate. The Dreadnaught was different. There were several cannons out of commission, but she kept firing as the ship was listing. The entire bridge looked as if it were ruins in some ancient city. The crew had gone below decks. Only a handful had survived the initial attack. The swarm near the frigate altered course and flew straight for the operational turret.

          Surrounding the guns, Towhay warriors soon found an opening at the side of the left hand gun port. Within seconds, the barrage ceased. I hesitated to turn from the window. I knew who was behind me waiting to question my behavior earlier. Disengaging my stare, I turned to face Inkaritath and my friends.

          Cavan was turned toward the opposite window looking at the remnants of the battle. Sonia stood behind him looking directly at me while keeping a caring hand on his back. Inkaritath simply looked out of the bow window and spoke without acknowledging me visually.

          “I apologize for my earlier outburst. Moralez posed a threat I could not ignore. His actions are, I understand, not indicative of all humans. However, those followers of his misguided faith are a concern. All of the men on both vessels have been checked for crucifixes like that on Moralez. Two were found. They are in custody. Sonia tells me you have seen this before.” He coldly delivered.

          “Yes, in Cavan’s father’s journal. The captain of the ship used in the original expedition was Christo Dominus Rex as well. What does that have to do with anything?” I asked even more perplexed.

          “Interesting.” Inkaritath commented. After a brief pause for thought, he continued. “How curious that both captains to and from our discovery to this world would be of the same fringe mindset. Does anyone know how widespread this is?”

          “I do.” Came a meek voice from in back of Cavan. Sonia spoke with embarrassment and fear in her voice.

          “I know how far this goes and it is not a ‘fringe mindset’. It is a majority opinion in many countries. The village where my parents grew up was full of Dom Rexes. They grew up around hatred and fear disguised as faith. Even my grandfather was one. That was a big part of why they came to the North American Empire. To get away from that culture. To be somewhere with fairies and life in the gardens.

          “They didn’t want me raised in hatred. When they got to Providence, it wasn’t much better. There were two factions of Italian families living on Federal Hill; the Dom Rexes and the regular Roman Catholics. We were separated by that. As children we were told not to play with each other. The churches were closed off to the opposing members. Even the restaurants were segregated. The summer I was ten years old, I watched an old drunk stumble into a Dom Rex bar. I knew him from church. His name was Mr. Casserino he had lost his wife the year before and started drinking heavily. It took only minutes before he was thrown through the door back onto the street. He went back in enraged but a moment later was pursued from the place by thugs who caught and beat him to the ground.

          “No one would help him off the ground for fear of the Dom Rexes’ retaliation. He sat there in a pool of his own blood and vomit until the nice young Chinese couple from the apartment building he was crouched in front of came and helped him up. I asked my parents what happened to him. They said he moved away, but the young woman who helped him told me a different story.

          “I was playing jacks with my friend Maria near the fountain in DePasquale Square. The lady was coming out of the poultry market with a duck. Maria dared me to say ‘hi’ so I did without hesitation. I knew she was nice, she had helped Mr. Casserino. ‘Hi’ I said meekly. She replied with a smile and a small bow then asked me if I was the little girl who was across the street when Mr. Casserino got hurt. I nodded my response.

           “’Do you know if he has family?’ She asked ‘The hospital gave me his things to give to his family’ I asked why his family would need his things since I was sure he was coming back shortly. The Chinese woman bent down to my height and said in the gentlest and warmest tone, ‘Little one, Mr. Casserino has passed away. He went to be with his wife.’

          The beating was so bad, and he was in such ill health from the booze that he didn’t survive. Dom Rexes are everywhere and they have no respect for anyone who is different from them.” She finished with a sigh of relief and sorrow mixed in one. Her eyes did not well with tears, but spoke volumes of disgust with the thought of people’s hatred. 

          We all sat contemplating what this meant for us, Inkaritath especially. He sighed heavily and turned toward the glass of the bow watching the sun set over the smoking hulls of the ships below. The humans on the bridge stood silent until the pregnant pause was over and the Great One spoke.

          “Why do humans think they rule this earth and all of the creatures upon it? I see the children of my kinsmen reduced to mindless slaves because of this meddling. My people created a help for yours and stood back to let the fledgling society take flight. In repayment for this kindness, we are treated just the opposite. Forced to be down-bred into slavery or killed arbitrarily all over the planet.

          “Perhaps the writings of those that came before me can help me to understand when this hatred started.” Inkaritath finished speaking to the window, perhaps to the world outside it. “The answer must be in the scrolls of the ancients. Come with me. All of you.”

          We tore ourselves from the windows and the hulls on fire outside. They were now strewn with dead bodies draped over the burning naval battlements. In silence we walked slowly following Inkaritath off of the bridge.

           At the table of the bistro where I had spilled my wine, I recalled all of these events as the sun set over the line of buildings in the sleepy French town in which I was hiding. The Germans who spent so long torturing me for answers as to the destruction of their ships understand the power of these creatures. But what they never expected was the power of that the scrolls would unlock. Not one of us was prepared for that.

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