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chapter five
Part Five

Spottyrivers stood with Michael GreySkies in the corner of the great room.   At the far end were their captives.   All women.  GreySkies eyed them suspiciously and turned to his Chief, "Do you think they're from Enid?"

"I doubt it."

"I think they are.  I think the O.W.C. is moving north."

The Oklahoma Womyn's Commune was trouble for anyone who crossed their path.   They had strange technologies Spottyrivers didn't even think existed outside the Commons, but in all the years the O.W.C. had never made advances outside their territory.   "It's not their way."

"But these are all women."

"Not all."   It was true.   Three of their captives had been men, but they were subordinate to these women, captives maybe, slaves perhaps.  Spottyrivers shook his head.   From what he knew of the O.W.C. they didn't like outsiders.

Greyskies wasn't letting up, "maybe they're breakaways, renegades, that sort?"

"It doesn't matter.   They're our prisoners.   As soon as Kellam figures out how to control this operation we'll take them back to the Village and convene sentence on them."   It put an end to the conversation, for now anyway.

He saw the eyes of the others in his party, some looked at their captives with a hunger he found disgusting.   They never treated anyone that way, such crimes were so long in the past as to be unthinkable, but he saw the possibility there, particularly on the face of David Nightmares.

Just then they heard the muffled sounds of the bell ringing three times.   Greyskies instantly grew agitated, "we're under attack!"

It's true, that's what the signal meant, and it also meant that some of their tribe had already fallen to the invaders.  Spottyrivers shook his head, the Americans weren't supposed to come this soon, they weren't support to attack without warning.   He'd been misled.   He turned, looking for Kellam.   The old man would know what to do now, but he was farther along the facility, in the room with the buttons and dials.

Spottyrivers started to move that way when the small device on the table near him began to rattle.   It vibrated for a few seconds and then stopped.   Then began again.   He stepped closer to it and looked at it.   He'd seen a device like this once before, in an old text.   A photograph showing someone holding part of this device to their head.   The top part.

Spottyrivers reached out and took hold of the top part of this device and lifted it.   It came apart easily and stopped vibrating as he lifted the bone shaped part from the base.

He brought it to his head the same way he remembered the picture showing but the device was silent.

* * *

Less than half a kilometre away, Tremblay looked at Kalter with a questioning gaze.   "What's up?   I can't hear anything."

Kalter rechecked the signals.   They had an open line but the sounds coming back were nearly undetectable.   "Maybe the microphone on the other end seized up, it's been a century."

"What should I do?"   It was a good question.

"If they can hear you..."

Tremblay nodded, one sided communication was better than nothing, he thought.   He cleared his throat and continued, "This is Captain Martin Tremblay of the United Network Command Authority, Space Command Peacekeeping Forces, Task Force Cimarron.   We're here to negotiate release of your captives.   If you can hear this, send someone outside of the facility with a white cloth, which we will accept as a symbol of truce."

Nothing.   "They will not be fired on.   They will be free to rejoin you at any time.   If you can hear me please do this so we can open up a dialogue with you."

Nothing.   Tremblay shrugged.   He had no way of knowing if anyone was on the other side, if they had heard what he said, or if they understood.   It was frustrating.   Before anyone else died he had to try and open a dialogue.

The line went dead with an audible click.   Tremblay looked at Kalter who confirmed it.   Tremblay put the Comm-Unit away.   He turned to Leftenant Sui, "Do we have floor plans for this place?"

Josie Sui motioned over towards the Conestoga trailer doubling as the Foreman's office, "I saw some in there."

Tremblay nodded and Sui turned off.   More and more it was looking like they'd have to force their way into the place and they needed a plan for that.

* * *

Grayson Redbird returned to his Regina office feeling optimistic about things after the Calgary meeting, that was, until he heard what was going on down near Rapid City.

"A showdown?"   It was an over-reaction and he knew it, but at the same time it had been over a century since anyone in the First Nations had taken up arms against someone.   If they were going to start why, oh why, did they have to pick the United Network?  It was going to set back things by decades.

Keeler Redbird, the elder at the firm and in the family, waves an open palm at him, the old man's quiet way of calming his grandson down.   It didn't work, not this time, "Poppy, we must do something, we cannot allow this to escalate."

Keeler closed his eyes for a moment, as though envisioning the escalation; actually it was as though he could see the events unfold.   Sometimes Grayson suspected the old man was peering into the future.   Keeler's head cocked to one side before he reopened his eyes and spoke.   His voice was measured and weathered, like the ages, "We must not interfere if things are going to take the correct path."

"They're already taken the wrong path.   Shots have been fired!   People are dead.   We can prevent this from getting any worse!"

"How?   By admitting we have contacts down there?   By revealing our lines?   No, we must allow events to play out if we are to succeed.   Trust them."

Trust who?   The Lakotas had no idea who they were up against and the Network was like Ancient Rome in their treatment of those who threatened citizens.   This was bound to end badly, very badly.

Keeler remained unphased, "events must play out."

* * *