"Now, now, Vicki," Kohlbie Took scolded, "such language in front of your son."
"You bitch," Vicki repeated.
"They-- they killed Mr. Took," JJ cried out.
"Of course they dad, child," Kohlbie said, not meeting JJ's eyes, "that was part of the arrangement."
"Why, Kohlbie," Vicki asked, unshead tears glistening in her eyes.
"JJ, do you know," asked Kohlbie, eyes still locked on his mother's, "how long a Click-nooka-whirl Queen typically lives?"
"Three or four centuries," JJ answered without thinking about it," and they'd probably live longer but all the egg-laying wears them out."
"That's right," Kohlbie's smile did not reach her eyes.
"What are you getting at," Vicki asked.
"Queen Tooko-tack has some very bright bugs working for her," JJ gasped at her casual use of the derogatory term, and they've figured out how to make it work for humans. I may very well live to see one of Tooko-tack's grand-daughters become Queen."
"You betrayed us for that," Vicki said as the began to roll down her face.
"So I betrayed a dozen bug-lovers. Others have betrayed many more for lesser reasons. I knew you wouldn't understand. That's why it had to be just me." Without another word, Kohlbie turned and walked away, the crowd closing behind her.
The Queen stepped forward, tilting her head back and forth as she looked at her captives. "Take the traitor back to the hive," she click-whistled, "Kill the rest."
JJ felt something warm and wet hit his face. He looked at his father, struggling desperately to stay on his feet even with the guards on either side supporting him. A ceremonial spear was jutting out of his chest, the gold and jewels coated and dripping.
"Nooo--," Vicki cried out, but another voice shouted her down.
"NOOOO!" The scream was many decibels louder and at least an octave lower than any human voice. The scream was punctuated by the corpse of a broken Chabrad crashing into several of the Queen's Royal Guards. JJ felt the pressure lift off of his chest and sat up, turning to face the commotion. An Arctos was charging towards them, knocking Chabrad out of his path with vicious blows. Most of those he struck would never be getting back up again.
As he got closer, JJ knew two things. This Arctos was Baerkto-Vincent, his dad's friend. And the Chabrad were going to kill him. He was already bleeding from numerous wounds and though still closing fast, he was slowing. The guards hustled to place themselves between the charging fury and their Queen. JJ thought of a painting he'd seen in a book once. In his mind's eye, Baerkto-Vincent looked as if he was charging out of hell with the Four Horsemen on his heels, not chasing him, but following, wanting to see what he'd do next.
One of the guards who had been holding Dratrart pivoted and ran just as the other two were lifted off the ground. An instant later, they collapsed to the ground, their necks crushed, heads lolling. When Bearkto-Vincent grabbed Dratrart, JJ thought that the bear-like alien had lost his mind, but the Arctos was lifting him gently. Turning, he launched Dratrart into the air. Dratrart hit the corner of a building, nearly two stories up, and stuck there, the claw of his good arm instinctively finding purchase on the rough-hewn stone.
Backhanding the guard who was holding JJ's mom, he scooped JJ up with his other arm and continued barreling through the crowd. But they were re-grouping now, and Baerkto-Vincent could not reach the alley he'd been angling towards. Dumping JJ into a doorway, the Arctos turned back and continued to fight. The Chabrad began to pile up in front of him, one broken body falling on top of another. What's that sound, JJ thought as two more mortally-wounded Chabrad were pitched back into the mob as a third's dagger sliced into Baerkto-Vincent's leg. Is that a truck, JJ wondered, vehicles aren't allowed this close to the City Center. He saw lights dancing as they entered the plaza just before his view was blocked as the Arctos slumped back into the doorway.
© Copyright 2009 Michael J. Ahlers
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