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I’m writing an open source sci-fi novel. You can follow along here or https://wrannaman.com

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If you’re just jumping, you might want to start at the beginning!

0.1.11

Kaiya awoke slowly on the beach, with salt encrusted eyes. A flurry of voices cooing nearby. As she blinked and cracked the salt, she saw dark figures staring down at her with oversized eyes. They weren’t hybrids, but some kind of tribal population. They were clucking at each other, obviously engaged in some kind of heated debate.

“Shit,” she said out loud. Someone reached a hand down. She smelled something awful and involuntarily went back to sleep.

Tribal populations across the globe sprung up after the Awakening. It seemed there was pent up demand for living locally off the land, outside of any government’s control. Where laws were made by the few in charge in exchange for safety and sustenance. Where people fought over territories. Increased isolation over millenia made them forget the tools and trades of modern man, voluntarily shedding customs and knowledge. They went back to a simpler, subsistence life wherever they happened to be. Over time, they morphed their common language into something unique to them. English was the origin, but you’d be hard pressed to pick that out through the accents. The weapons they used were primitive as well, though occasionally they found some vestige of the past and were able to use it to their own advantage. Not all of these tribes were acts of nature. The Sikkas also experimented with an accelerated natural selection and then set them free to build a tribe. What happens to a population if you forbid reading and writing, et al, etc. Over time even the experimenters lost interest and left these artificial cultures to fend for themselves without direction. The sociologists and geographists of the day would have been infatuated with what these small clusters morphed into.

Kaiya woke up for the second time in much better condition, someone had washed her face and put her in some dry, clean linens. At least she wasn’t in immediate danger. She noticed her palm was face up as she awoke, and her stomach felt like it was ripping out of her. She snapped her palm shut and got up slowly. She felt like she had been beaten with a stick all night. She noticed Shim was nearby in another bed-like platform in the same tent as her. The others were already up and outside. Arryn, Ayala, Brig, and Petr seemed just fine, and were playing soccer with some of the local kids. They weren’t in any danger. She walked out to them and they greeted her with a kick of the ball.

“Everyone made it?” She asked

“Without a scratch,” Brig said, his arm in a sling.

“I feel like I’ve been beat up,” Kaiya winced, rubbing her ribs.

“We got tossed around pretty good,” Arryn conceded, while still playing soccer.

She was about to talk business, about what happened, what they would do next, but upon seeing her friends smile, and jog around with some levity, she decided to wait. She checked in on Shim. Shim had some nasty bruises as well, but otherwise seemed fine, she’d let her sleep. They spent the day at ease, with curious eyes looking out at them as they roamed around the tiny island. There were many more within view, and as far as the eye could see, there were tiny islands a short distance from each other. They had gotten lucky. If they were out in the open ocean, it would have been easy for the Sikkas to find them eventually, or they would have drowned after so many hours of swimming, trying to reach the nearest shore.

They were fed at lunch, a simple dish of fish, rice and fresh fruit. It wasn’t until the afternoon that they saw the pyre of fire wood on one of the nearby beaches. There was going to be some kind of event that night, though they didn’t know what for. A little while after the sunset, they were all brought to one room and given special clothes to wear. Kaiya’s was the most elaborate of them all, with a billowing cape and a deep hood. On the front of it the two triangles were sewn across the front in huge, earth tones. She looked worriedly at the others who noticed just when she did. There were guards now outside of their hut. They were facing out, indicating they protected those within, but all the same, they could have easily turned around and enforced in the opposite direction. Arryn, Brig, and Petr were put into a kind of dress, though they had seen some of the other men wearing them too. Brig couldn’t stop laughing.

Two of the women of the tribe stayed back to help Kaiya put her dress on. She was taken to a special room in a different hut. The hut was simple, and made of bamboo and banana leaves, with some animal hides they must have traded to get. The beds were many pillows arranged in a circle on the floor. The girls indicated to Kaiya for her to take off the simple white linens she was put in last night. She did and both of the women watched her as she did. Kaiya, unsure of what to do next looked down at the dress. The dress looked complicated and she was grateful for the assistance. One of them had dimples, and got down on one knee, indicating for Kaiya to step into the dress. She smiled a little too long at Kaiya as she slipped the dress over one leg. Kaiya stopped her, and grabbed her under the chin with both hands and kissed her.

When she came back out to the main group, Shim immediately knew what went on and winked at Kaiya without a hint of jealousy, perhaps other than missing out. The soldiers on the outside let themselves in the tent following what looked like their leader. He entered the room and said some incomprehensible nonsense, mostly gesturing at Kaiya who fidgeted around and searched for her friends faces to see if they knew what the hell this guy was trying to say. They didn’t. After some silence when the older man had stopped talking, she bowed what she thought was a respectful bow. He looked pleased and bent down to kiss Kaiya’s hand. As he dropped to his knee, she looked at her friends.

“You might be getting married right now Kaiya,” Arryn laughed.

“It could certainly be interpreted that way,” Petr added, barely controlling his laughter.

Kaiya tried to keep it together but there was fear in her eyes. The natives didn’t notice, and asked the group to follow him down to the beach. When they left the hut, their exit was lined with people throwing flowers and leaves on them. The entire tribe was out looking at them and throwing plants at them, affectionately. The strangeness of the experience was compounded by the music they played which was so faint and atonal it was like mimicking water hitting rocks, and wind through the trees. Eventually it picked up and found a rhythm, but it was the longest interlude Kaiya had ever heard. When they reached the beach and the pyre, a man in an elaborate headdress knelt, shouted what was presumably some prayer or offering, and then set it on fire. There were several moments of silence until the heat from the fire was felt on Kaiya’s face, then the dancing began. Kaiya was pulled away from her friends and led near the Pyre. The men came out slowly. She fought the urge to assume her fighting stance as the male dancers approached her. They turned before they got to her, and spun to show their backs to her. The men danced violently to the rhythm, and performed a sequence that was both aggressive and fluid. The women came into the mix and were just as aggressive, if not more so. Kaiya interpreted the movements as a kind of mating ritual. Brig was biting his hand in laughter. If these people were going to hurt them they would have done it already. The dancers stopped abruptly and opened a pathway from the crowd to Kaiya. Slowly, the members of their tribe went up to Kaiya, went on one knee and kissed her hand. Kaiya stood standing, dumbfounded as person after person knelt before her and kissed her marked hand. By the time everyone had done so, she looked up realizing everyone was now bowing, her friends included. She wasn’t sure if she should say something, or do something so she just waited. They knelt for what felt like an eternity. She tried to find any face in the crowd that would give her some kind of indication of what to do. She found the woman with the soft dimples from earlier in the night, who mimicked a bow, indicating Kaiya should do so. She did, deeply and theatrically. The leader of the tribe saw and seemed pleased. He rose and presented her with a device that looked cybernetic. He indicated for her to put her hand to it. She did. At once the device beamed with light, enveloping her in a pure white light. The crowd rose and a raucous cheer rose up. The cheering faded away as Kaiya felt Wrans energy surge through her. Images floated by her, scenes from long ago, and then there was nothing. They were in a bright void.

“Kaiya,” Wran spoke.

“Wran?”

“Kaiya, I cannot speak for long. My power, it grows, but slowly. I will be with you, but I need more time.”

“Time for what? How long?”

“Please. Time.”

“Where should we go? How do I connect with you again?”

“Dunes.”

Wran’s voice faded to white noise, and the cheer from the tribespeople came back to her. She cleared her throat and wobbled a bit trying to fight off the vertigo from the experience. Shim steadied her and checked in.

“I’m fine,” Kaiya said, “I’ll tell you in the morning.”

They spent the rest of the night drinking and dancing on the beach.

They slept on the beach where they dropped from dancing. The shore was littered with bodies and clothes. Some were stirring before her as she got up. Shim was nestled on top of Kaiya, her head on Kaiya’s belly. Kaiya jolted awake with a sick feeling in her stomach. Something was wrong. Kaiya stroked Shim’s hair gently and she groaned as Kaiya adjusted her head. She was getting impatient and now with this nagging, ominous feeling, they had to get out of there. They had needed to rest, true, but now they seemed well enough to be on the road back to the Y. She knew Eros would be worried and she didn’t have a way to get a message to him, or even if she could send it, it might be intercepted by the Sikkas. She decided they needed to find a way off this little collection of islands back on to the mainland as soon as possible. They’d needed the rest, but Dredge would still be out there looking for them, going island by island until they found her.

She dressed and found the leader, who was drinking tea near his hut overlooking the beach. He looked like he was meditating, and she patiently waited until he opened his eyes. Startled at her silent approach, he nodded respectfully and awaited Kaiya to try and tell him what she needed to. She pointed to herself first, and then pointed over the island, back to where the main land would be. She drew small islands with little waves in between them, and then drew a large mass of land. She traced a stick from one of the islands to the mainland. The man nodded. He got up and led her around a corner to a storage hut. Inside, he showed her a few boats and indicated towards the shore where she could see many different boats. She nodded and picked one out. He acknowledged and eagerly called a few people over, presumably to ready the boat.

She woke her friends on the beach hurriedly, and made them collect their things asking them to meet her on the section of the beach where the boats were. She changed clothes in the hut, and grabbed what little survived their shipwreck, and was the first on the boat. As soon as the morning fog lifted off the archipelago, they’d be able to see the shore, and find their way accordingly. One of the tribesmen joined them to take the boat back when they were done. The others trickled on board and as soon as they were all inside, they began rowing, taking direction from the tribesman that would accompany them. Halfway through the paddle, they looked back and saw a glowing red hue over the island, the light refracting off the thick fog. It wasn’t the pyre burning anymore, but huts. The Sikkas had found them.

When they arrived on shore of the mainland, the tribesman looked at them, unsure of what he should do. It looked like he no longer had a home to come back to, and a fire burned in the man’s eyes. He should have been there, but here was a girl, a goddess to his people who also needed help, needed protection, and he thought his elders would look favorably upon him if he applied himself to her protection, and so he did.

After pulling the boat up on the beach, the tribesman touched Kaiya on the shoulders after a slight bow and locked in on her eyes. Kaiya knew the man saw what had happened. The tribesman waived the others over to him. Closer he indicated, until they were locked in a circular hug.

“He’s going to come with us,” Petr said, half question, half statement, the man looked at him and pointed to himself, “Mishu,” he said.

It was understood then, Mishu broke the hug and then began pulling the boat into the treeline to hide it. Everyone got the idea and pitched in. It wouldn’t be easily spotted from the water. From there, they had a light snack they were given and headed out into the jungle. They only had the primitive tools of the tribe that were graciously gifted to them on their departure. The first step would be to get some real gear to protect themselves. Kaiya tried to convey this to the tribesman. She took the machete and tried to gesture that they needed bigger machete’s, and she tried to simulate a gun. She thought it worked. The tribesman drew a house with large sides, a warehouse. Kaiya grinned and nodded to him as he finished. They had a plan, or at least the start of one.

They set out into the jungle heading due east. They had a rough idea of where they were headed from the geography they knew and could recognize, but it was going to be more difficult to get back home by boat than it would be by land given that the Sikkas were patrolling the waters so closely, and given their narrow escape, they chose land. They didn’t know exactly how long it would take for them to get home. It would take as long as it needed to. But given what had befallen nearly everyone they’d come into contact with since Kaiya was marked, the future didn’t look bright for the Y. It exhausted her, the thought of being on the run the rest of her life against a force she knew little about, and now marked with some kind of implant she didn’t know how to use. When they arrived at an abandoned depot, they entered to the strong smell of decaying bodies. They covered their mouths with whatever they could and split up around the depot, cautiously. Arryn found a modicum of weapons and called the others over. 3 guns and a decent amount of rounds. Kaiya had found a sword and several others grabbed what suited them and what they’d be able to carry. They found a place to rest around back and plotted their next move.

“We can’t go by sea,” Ayala started.

“Land is going to take too long,” Arryn added, exhausted.

“I don’t see a plane, and I sure as hell am not going to risk those Sikka patrols out on the water, I swear we’re being followed,” Brig added.

“Last night at the ceremony, you put your hand on something and it reacted,” Petr reasoned out loud, “It’s possible what we took for a burn was actually an implant. Kaiya, I think that rock or whatever it was modded your hand. You’re networked, connected, and somehow the Sikkas can get the signal, that’s how they know where to find us.” He looked pleased with himself.

“I don’t know man, that seems… weird. Inefficient. Why not just send a message?” Shim tossed a concerned look over to Kaiya.

“I’ve been reading about the Wrannaman mythology forever,” Petr humble-bragged, “Wran is a computer. A peculiar one, but a computer nonetheless, it makes perfect sense to me that it would evolve to communicate in this way.”

“I wish I could speak to Eros, just five minutes would give us more than we know now.” Kaiya was on the verge of tears, she felt responsible for the fate of her friends, the Y, and the tribe that was just massacred.

“It’s going to have to be the Dunes. I don’t see any other way to do this.” Ayala said it like she was giving up.

“The Dunes…” Arryn said with dread.

“Eros said to meet him at the Arc. And last night, during the ceremony, when they put that thing on my hand, I spoke to Wran a little. She too said to go to the Dunes,” Kaiya remembered.

“Great, the Y is unsafe, and now we’re headed to the Arc by way of the Dunes, sounds like a great plan,” Petr fretted.

“I don’t understand, why can’t she speak to you more clearly?” Shim asked genuinely.

“I don’t know, I think she’s still weak, she saves up energy for our encounters, and then has to recharge. That’s what it seems like to me.” Kaiya mused. A few of them turned to Petr for an answer.

“Superintelligent systems are not my specialty, but that sounds reasonable. As reasonable as any of this has been.” Petr spewed.

They were silent for a moment. It wasn’t a fault in the reasoning, just the dread of having to go to a place with a flurry of negative context. The Dunes would be an unlikely place for the Sikkas to find them, and perhaps would give them just enough time to regroup and come up with a better way to make it back home, but going there without a guide, without someone to vouch for them in case they ran across any undesirables was risky. And even if they did manage to make it back home, what then? The life they knew was gone, or at the very least would follow them wherever they went.

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