A Big Shiny Blue Marble Ch. 51

byTaLtos6©

"The weapon," he said in Hebrew, "not in your hands."

She stopped and stared at him, amazed that he could speak, the rifle almost falling from her grip into the water. "Who -- who are you?"

He pointed, "The weapon."

She hesitated a second too long and Mirai disappeared, though the line of disturbed water which accompanied him left little doubt where he was. The woman screamed in surprise as she was lifted and the other humans made ready to open fire.

What stopped them was the woman, held -- still screaming and struggling now - in the air in front of Mirai as he stood on the sand, so that they were offered a choice as he glared at them all. "Stand down," he said loudly, "or this one dies -- and if she dies for such stupidity, then you will all die."

He looked at the woman, who now cursed a little in her efforts to free herself. "Calm yourself," he said as he forced the rifle away from her, "You are a leader among these ones? How can you lead when you cannot listen?

I wanted the weapon out of your hand. It can be carried over your shoulder. I do not care, but not in your hand. They annoy me. Can you listen now?"

She nodded and he set her down gently on her feet. "What do you want?" he asked.

"I -- I am Natasha," she said, "We come in thanks."

"For?" He asked.

She looked surprised, "You have killed the ones who imprisoned us -- enough for us to overthrow them, anyway."

"I killed no one that I know of," he said, "What happened?"

Natasha related how the sandstorm had destroyed buildings where the weapons and troops of a local warlord had been housed, killed him and his family and tipped the scales in their favor, making an uprising possible and hiding the progress of it until it was a fact.

"We are grateful," she said.

"You fear us," he said as an observation, "and I did nothing of the kind. It is these ones whom you should thank -- if you think that you have the courage for it."

Natasha looked at Ghibli and Siroc, who nodded to her cautiously before she looked back at Mirai, "Why do you say it that way?" she asked.

"It is the truth," he smiled, "You alone do not shiver and quake -- most of rest do. And why?"

He snorted, "We have had almost nothing to do with humans because of your kind's stupidity. We hide from you because we are tired of killing you in our own defense. We came here to bathe and we were attacked for nothing and we had to kill two more humans over no more than our wish to be clean."

He leaned a little lower and she backed up a step. "What now?" he asked, "I only wished for a better look at you and you are ready to run."

"I will not run," she said a little hotly.

"Fine," he replied, "then thank who you must and be gone. I only wish to see you do it."

"Why do you mock me?" she asked.

"I mock nothing, but you show your foolishness once more," he said, "You say that you are free by the hand of one of us? Do you know who you speak with?"

"I asked you who you are and I was treated roughly," Natasha said.

"You did not listen when I told you about your weapon. You are alive and you are not harmed, "He said, "You try to take insult where there was none meant, and you still do not show me that you can listen. Who I am is not something which I think that you wish to know, since those others would only be more afraid. Sit."

She didn't move and so he bellowed it. "SIT!"

They all sat.

"First," he said, "Forget what you think that you know -- or you throw away an ally before you even know that you need him -- and you will. I did nothing to help or hinder you. I am a demon to some though it is not our name for ourselves. It was the two winged ones here who aided you and they are half-demon. The other half is Djinn."

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"I mean," he said, "they are half something which is not mentioned in your books, yet there they are. The dust which rose came from their winds. I did nothing. So if you must say your thanks, say it to them and I will translate."

Natasha got to her feet and bowed politely as she thanked Siroc and Ghibli, who bowed back and smiled when Mirai translated for them. He looked at Natasha, "They say that they are pleased that they helped you, but they knew nothing of your trouble; they only raised the sand so that we might have a little peace to mate."

"Now," he said, "Where will you go?"

"Jerusalem, I have heard," she said with a shrug.

Mirai nodded, "There are many allies of the one who imprisoned you between here and Jerusalem, if that is where you mean to go since you do not seem sure. It seems to me that you say this because it was said to you by another.

At worst, the powerful men like the one you have killed are his allies and at best, they are his rivals and would imprison you themselves if they do not kill you outright. They are all the same. "

"We don't know, "she said, "We have to discuss this."

"How many are you and what can you do?" he asked further.

"I think that we have about two hundred who can fight," she said, "and about three hundred others, not fighters, and there are children in that number."

He shook his head, "I do not doubt that you have the spirit," he said, "but can you fight through to get to a place which is not your home? There is war coming. Man and demons and other sorts of things against demons and others as well. This is known by us. I think that you will need to fight no matter where you are as will we all, but there is a queen who can help.

She seeks settlers on her lands to the south. You would be welcome there and your faith can remain your own, she cares not. She seeks settlers who would fight for what is theirs. Choose some leaders to stay here with the people and a small group to come with you, and we will take you to her and you can decide."

He leaned down, "Why do I see that you are uncertain? I think that you all are being told where you must go by someone else here and it is not the right thing."

He tilted his head, "Jerusalem is a ruin -- the same as any city in this time. How long has it been since you were there? You cannot have seen it before its fall."

Natasha thought for a moment and then she looked up and squared her shoulders, "I have never seen it," she said, "None of us have. We were born either here or on the way here, but we have always trained against this day -- to go home."

Mirai looked closely for a moment, "That is not where you came from, yet you call it home."

He shook his head, "Then you are lost," he said, "Think to how you feared and distrusted me only a moment ago. Which of you would believe me? Who would take the word of a demon when he says that there is no place to go home to? I know your kind. With a desire and a hope burning in you, you would go, fighting and dying the whole way to get to something which is a wasteland, driven only by your hope that it is still there. Humans are known to us for this. I could show you and you would believe nothing. Come," he said, "and I WILL show you." He held her rifle out to her and began to walk.

She looked astonished until he looked over, "On your shoulder. Not in your hands."

Natasha nodded and slung the weapon over her shoulder.

He walked off the spit of sand on all fours and she saw that whatever he was, he preferred to move that way as he led her back to the others on the opposite side. "Can you walk on just your back feet?" she asked.

"I can stand that way for a time," he said, "walking that way feels uncomfortable and unnatural. You can stand on your hands. How far would you wish to walk like that?"

As they drew near, the others all shank back and a few raised their weapons.

"Remind them that I told them to stand down. Tell them that I am no enemy, but that I will become one if they show more of this to me. The next one who lifts a weapon will die. Tell them."

She spoke to them all and they lowered the weapons.

"I brought you here to show you this." He said in Hebrew, "You will see how much I am to be trusted."

A shimmering portal opened, and then another beside it. "Jerusalem," he pointed to one, "In this one, other places where man lives," he said, indicating another before he showed them what was left of Damascus, Medina, Moscow, NuYawk, Buenos Aires, London, Berlin and Lozenjellis.

"Go if you feel that you must, but from what I know, it is the same everywhere. They stand as you see them. None have much of any order. Some are run by men like the one that you have overthrown. There is little to go there for. The people starve and scrape to live there as they do in any other place. Some are worse than others."

He moved his hand and the image of Oakland began to grow nearer, zooming in as the focal point closed on an old sports stadium. The people on the sand spit recoiled as they watched the carnage before them as it was happening.

"Those winged ones are demons," Mirai said, "though they are not of this world and have been brought. This is the war that I spoke of, Natasha, and unless it is stopped and soon, it will grow and spread -- and there will be nowhere that anyone will be safe."

"You cannot believe him," a slightly older man said, "He is --"

Mirai's hand shot out and held the man by the throat as he looked around, "Yes," he said, "a demon. I think that we all know now." He pointed to the man in his grasp, "There," he said, "Wisdom from an idiot. He was not where you were."

"He is my commander," Natasha said.

Mirai shook the man and leaned close as he spoke to Natasha, "Perfect," he sneered, "A leader who leads from safety. I'd wager that he did little or none of the fighting, waiting until you all handed the victory to him."

He looked closely for a moment and leaned closer still. "You stood next to me and the others and you barely shook. This -- leader -- quakes and he will foul himself in only a moment more."

He turned to woman, "Yet you follow him. You would be better served to follow your own heart and mind Natasha, you and those like you here. An important bit of advice; there is a difference between being led for a purpose and being led by one who holds up a purpose -- when really, it is his sense of importance that drives him. That is what I see here."

Mirai looked at the man, "I will let go now. You will now show that you are no leader. I will set you down and if you move even a hair away from me, I will kill you. Do you understand?"

The man nodded as much as he was able and Mirai set him down. "You are her leader. How interesting. You were slaves here? Forced labor, perhaps?"

Natasha nodded and he went on, "And none of you have seen where it is that you wish to go, having been born in captivity here or elsewhere, the children of slaves. And this one here, who now pisses in his fear of what he does not know, he has seen nothing either and he would lead you - where?"

He looked at the man, "Do you know the direction to Jerusalem? Show me."

The man raised his hand and pointed. Mirai smirked, "That way leads to Istanbul. Do you wish to try again?"

The man licked his lips and pointed in another direction.

Mirai grinned and said only, "Cairo. Keep pointing, sooner or later you will be right. By what right do you lead? I seek to offer a chance, and you offer them only to be led by a fool with no sense of direction."

"You seek to divide us!" the man said, "Do not listen to this demon!" he yelled at the others, "He seeks to deceive us! He seeks t-"

He stopped when he noticed the hot wetness on his leg and foot. Mirai was urinating. "Well," he smiled, "you began it when I picked you up."

He sighed wearily, "I grow tired of this."

His hand reached out in a blur to seize the man's rifle from him and he examined it for a moment, "This one seems to be newer and more functional than the old ones that your fighters have. Yet I see that it is full and has not been used. The old weapons here have seen use this day. I think that the better weapons are in the hands of the wrong ones.

Since you cannot have had this at the start, you must have gotten it somehow. Tell me how you came to possess such a weapon when you did not fight and Eyal, do not think to tell me a mistruth."

"How did you know my name?" Eyal asked, amazed and confused.

"We have been over this," Mirai said, "I am a demon. Now tell me."

"I gave it to him," Natasha said, "I killed a guard and I took it. He ordered me to give it to him."

Mirai held the weapon out to her, "Then I give it back to you." He took her bolt-action rifle from her and held it out to Eyal, who took it and shook in anger until he found himself lying on the sand with his cheek bleeding.

Natasha had noticed the others and what she thought that she saw was five of them, two with wings and three of whatever this one was who spoke to the humans. A movement across the pool caught her eye and she tried to look there was she was listening. What she saw after a few moments was an area in the background which seemed to ripple slightly and then it was gone. She kept her attention there and at times, she saw the ripple again for an instant.

It didn't seem any more threatening than any of the others there, and Natasha didn't feel any sense of dark intent from any of them, so she more or less forgot about it.

But the ripple did not forget her.

Mahkhad looked at her fairly often, though he didn't want to stare, knowing that humans can sense many things which they might not even know much about. He liked what he saw, and had a slight wish to get to know this human out of interest. It hadn't ever happened before, but he found it a pleasant thought.

Of course, he also knew better than to even think about the razor-thin chance of that coming to pass. In his experience, a fair percentage of humans lost their minds in fear at only the sight of what he was and the rest got the hell away as soon as possible. Mahkhad didn't normally give it a thought, but right now, he thought that he'd have liked to meet her for a few minutes.

That wasn't going to happen, so he tried to stay in the background and observe as he enjoyed the warmth of the sun on his bruised and tired body.

Mirai's contempt of the man was plain. The longer that he looked, the more that he disliked what he saw. "You command a group of fighters who have proven themselves today while you were not even near to them. If anyone deserves the right to lead here, it is Natasha from what I know -- because I can see these things." He thought for a moment, sensing from the young woman, probing her memories of the event.

He looked around, "You led them," he said to her, "It was you who won the day for everyone. I see a group of fighters. I also have a choice before me -- the same choice which lies before you. I know what I will do.

You can follow Eyal to your deaths, or you can remain here and die when the friends of the one who held you here come -- and they will - rather soon - since they trade between them. I offer a chance to have your own place if the queen of that land will allow it, and I believe that she will. The land which she holds is in the Sudan. If you wish to go there, then remain here, and I will have others like me take you there quickly. There is food, game and water. All you need bring are a small bag of possessions, your weapons and whatever the weapons must have."

"No one will go," Eyal said as he got to his feet, "You are a demon and would lead us to our deaths."

Mirai looked around and smiled, "No I will not. I see that you have many here who would listen to you. Your deaths will come to you as they do to everyone. I offered a chance for a place to live. You might have to fight there, but you would fight for what is yours -- for the ones that you love and hold dear." He shook his head, "I am wasting my time and my breath. Die wherever you like."

He turned and began to walk.

"Wait!"

Mirai turned and saw Natasha as she picked up a satchel of ammunition. Slinging it onto her back, she began to walk toward him, her hair blowing a little in the breeze as she stepped to the water's edge in her shorts and old combat boots. "I will go if only one is worth your time."

Mirai was surprised, but he nodded and waited for her.

Eyal was surprised as well, but he raised his rifle. "Give me that gun," he said, "If you're crazy enough to believe a lying demon, then I don't want you armed."

Natasha turned and after half a second, she felt her indignation coming up, "I don't think that I've heard any lies that I can recognize out of him yet, Eyal, but I know you lie like a dog more than half the time. I think he's right and I'm going."

She drew back the cocking handle and raised her own rifle while walking backward, "Come and take it."

Eyal might not have been a great leader and he might not have been all that truthful sometimes, but he did have at least a modicum of charisma. With a few choice words and phrases, he had several others raising their weapons at Natasha as well.

Mirai turned back to shield Natasha with his body and at that point, many things began to happen at once.

Eyal couldn't hit a mountain from twenty yards, but after one shot, it didn't matter much. His rifle moved in his grip then and the stock hit him hard in the face from the way that Mahkhad knocked it aside. Eyal fell to the sand holding his head and Mahkhad rushed past him in a blur looking for weapons which could fire quickly. Several people literally fell in bloody pieces and others recoiled in horror as they realized that they were wearing the warm blood of the fallen. What was there moved too fast to be seen as more than a dark flash when Mahkhad passed by the ones who were not shooting to get to others who were.

In the meantime, the water around Mirai and Natasha churned with the splashes of the bullets from the shooters on the top of the rim. That didn't last long as Sheel and Mahkhad bounded up there and began to kill them. When there was no more gunfire, they stopped and the rest of the humans saw them and began to run, though one group of about forty hung back uncertainly, their weapons down and unused.

Mahkhad jumped down onto the spit and Eyal saw the imprints of his feet when he did and turned on his knee to raise his old rifle, working the bolt as he did. The bolt came back, drawing the spent shell of his previous shot out of the chamber and as it flew out of the rifle's action and spun upward flashing in the sunlight, the man was knocked on his back and the rifle flew off to land in the pool.

Mahkhad looked down, standing still long enough for the man to see him and void his bowels. But the beast was gone then, running across the shallow pool to get to the others.

Natasha was surprised to see a demon beside her that she hadn't seen before as Mahkhad asked his uncle if he was hurt badly. Mirai just grunted and shook his head. But he had been hit many times as he'd shielded Natasha, who stared at him before thanking him.

"Now you see why they annoy me," he smiled.

Mirai looked at Amraish and with a glance between them, Amraish spoke a few words to Ghibli and was gone.

"Natasha!" A woman called from the rim, "What now?"

Natasha recognized her friend Kalina and beckoned to her. The entire group walked down and began to wade across a little uncertainly. Mahkhad stared at them and knew that there was something common about them all. Man or woman, they hadn't been born here and had come as slaves from elsewhere. He tried to speak to Natasha but he couldn't speak Hebrew and so he tried a few other languages. Her Syrian was better than his by a wide margin, but to their amazement, they both could speak English, though hers was heavily accented.

"What is your name please," Natasha asked, "I wish to thank you for what you did."

"Mahkhad," the beast smiled with a nod, "You are Natasha. How did you get here?"

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