See Part One
“We don't even know who is behind all this.” Jake stressed “Yes, Mr. Campo is definitely a suspect but you can't go off and do crazy stuff.”
The Administrator turned to him with a vague look on his face. “Aren't we also citizens of Oasis? Are we not allowed to visit our own city?”
Jake closed his eyes and almost pinched the bridge of his nose. “You know what I mean, if dozens of your fliers show up at once, people are going to think your invading or something.”
“We call them our dragons.” Ria said “Not fliers.”
They were outside walking into a field where dozens of the flying machines were being prepped by crews and pilots.
Lily spoke up waving a hand at all the activity. “Yes, he's right. They will definitely take it as a hostile act, this definitely does look an invasion.”
Soon all of the crews were standing at attention next to their flying machines and the pilots were standing at attention in front of them. There was blue squad with Ria and Hando, but there were several other color-coded squads too. Including the older pilots in the gold squad.
Ria came up to Jake and pointed “What is that?” she pulled something from his jacket pocket and held it up “Where did you get a boomerazor?”
“I bought it from a street merchant. It's a bit rusty.” he answered rubbing the back of his neck.
She opened it up and looked inside. “Yes, it's rusty all right. That's my mark, you found one of mine out there! Ha!”
She handed it back to him and ran off to be with her crew.
The Administrator rubbed his chin. “The council has become someone's prisoner. That someone has hijacked the authority of the council to send orders to the defense forces. People and businesses have been bullied to remove the ability of the masses to fight a prolonged battle. All of this points to a coup in progress. I think we should go and find out what is happening.”
Jake shook his head. “They have their anti-aerial weapons readied. To everyone down there it's going to look like you started the war!”
The elderly man nodded. “Possibly.”
Jake gave up on the argument and joined his friends at their flying machine. Bolt said”They were very impressed with my engine design. I bet they'll try to copy it.”
Lily shook her head. “Bolt, this is not a good time.”
Just then a couple dozen armed men and women wearing some kind of armor jogged out to join the pilots. Jake didn't know what that was about but it looked like they were going to pair up on those flying machines, they didn't look like they would carry two.
“They only need to go downward.” Lily said “They'll drop the soldiers into the lake and be able to pull up.”
Jake looked at her like she had gone nuts. “That's crazy.”
“It's what they have been trained for.” she said “Hando was boasting about it”
Jake shook his head, “Hando needs to learn to keep secrets from people outside the clan before he gets himself in trouble. Let's go. I don't want to get shot out of the sky.”
The engines aimed downward and their aircraft lifted off the ground, after a dozen or so feet he turned toward the edge of the plateau and headed off. They would have to head back to Oasis City from the eastern area, hopefully they won't be mistaken for Air Knights.
Now that they remembered how to use the short-range radio they were able to chat a bit.
Lily asked “Are they going to try and gain entrance to the council building?”
Jake hoped not. “They could die if they did that. I don't know much of what they are planning, maybe the air show will be just a diversion.”
Bolt spoke up, “Maybe we should try to sneak in when their attention is on the Air Knights?”
Lily exclaimed “Us?”
Several thoughts went through Jake's mind. Should they just go back to the factory and hide there for the duration? Then he saw a dust cloud below them and saw two long columns of Caravan nomads in their wagons headed toward the city. This was strange.
“I'm going to go around first!” he told them. Oasis City wasn't very big but his suspicions were soon confirmed when he saw a large number of cycles heading toward the town from the south and west.
“Riders!” Lily yelled, “What's going on?”
Jake didn't know. “It looks like everyone is converging on the city.”
He flew through and around the airships surrounding the city and landed back in Mr. Tinker's factory after Bolt opened the roof remotely again. He took off his helmet.
“Something big is happening.” he said
“No kidding, but we still don't know who is behind all this!” Bolt said, tossing the helmet “We don;t know who the sides are, or who is behind all this. We can't fight a shadow.”
Jake went to the wall terminal and called his father.
“Where have you been?” his dad asked, concerned.
“Dad, listen. I'm fine. It looks like a war or something is breaking out. Maybe you can take Tawni and Jato and get away from Oasis City for a while?” he asked his father. His father replied calmly and evenly “You have to come too, Jake.”
“I think it's too late.” he told his father “Just go past the mountains until this is all over.”
“Jake, listen to me.”His father said “If you can't come here, find a safe place and hideout! Don't do anything stupid. Can you promise me that?”
Jake put a hand over his eyes. “I can try. Just get to safety!”
There was banging on the door and Bolt went over to it and activated the door monitor. It was Lily's little sister Tulip. She looked frantic and she ran into her sisters arms when Bolt opened the door for her.
“Lily! Some men came and took Dad away!” she said, tears in her eyes.
Lily lost her balance and Jake helped her sit on the floor. “Who were they? Did they say anything?”
Tulip and Lily were embraced and crying but she said “They said he was going to be a hostage.”
“Bolt. We might need some guns.” Jake told him.
Bolt looked confused “I was kidding about sneaking into the council building...” he lied “Let's pretend that idea never came up.”
Jake shook his head. “I think we have to. We have to find out what is going on before this whole situation explodes.”
Just then loud streaking sounds broke the silence from outside. They were shooting the anti-aerial weapons from around the council building. Jake opened the door and looked into the darkening skies to see several vehicles zipping around.
“The air show has started.” he told them “Bolt, we need to go.”
They left the girls in the factory and made sure the door locked. They walked down alleys as quietly as they could toward the council building. They wanted to avoid the troops, but instead of finding the place surrounded they found it mostly not.
“They must be fighting the Air Knights ground troops at the lake.” Bolt whispered. That was as good a theory as any. It also fit with what they knew. Only the anti-air batteries remained around the building, and maybe a few troops. With their attention diverted, it might actually be possible to sneak in.
The main entrance and the back entrance were both guarded, but the third entrance on the side for the staff seemed to be unguarded. It was very quiet on that side of the building.
“What are we going to do once we're inside?” Bolt asked. Jake hadn't decided that yet. He thought the council chamber, where their business was done in public might be the best location to look if there are a bunch of hostages. It's the only room big enough.
“We need to look into the council chambers.” was all he said. As if Bolt could figure out the whole plan from that much information. The door was unlocked and they sneaked inside, the lights were off in this corridor, it seemed abandoned. It led to the kitchen.
“Don't touch anything.” Jake said, knowing Bolt would probably want to touch anything that looked unfamiliar. He was as much into doodads as his father was. They made it through the kitchen without knocking pots, pans or hydrolizers off a shelf. The next room was the banquet room. There were a lot of tables but it was dark and nothing was stirring here either.
'Nice carpet.” Bolt said. It was soft and thick, good for absorbing sound as a matter of fact. It had to have been an antique from one of the original colony landings. Must be very expensive to import one of these from off-world, ridiculously expensive. Concentrate.
He looked out of a crack in the old door frame into the corridor. There were two armed soldiers in the hallway by one of the entrances to the chambers. One of the soldiers put a hand to his hear as if being told something and then saying “Roger that.” then to the other soldier “Out front, they need some help!”
Jake really hoped that didn't mean the ground force of the Air Knights was arriving already. Then he opened the door and duck-walked to the chamber door. He could hear voices from inside. He opened the door just a fraction of an inch and put his eye to it.
The closest thing was a footed foot of a soldier facing away from him. He could the back of several heads in the seats where the audience would watch the floor. It was darker there than down on the floor where the small part of the council desk he could see had members sitting there. The few he could see looked haggard, dark sacks beneath their eyes as if they hadn't slept since the “lock-down” began.
One of the few council members he could actually see sitting there like a refugee was Mr. Campo, and he looked pissed. The speaker, whoever it was, was droning on and on about a united and peaceful Oasis. A free and democratic Oasis. At this point Campo raising his shackled arms and clanging the chains “That's the sound of your freedom!”
At that moment Mr. Campo suddenly looked like a rebel freedom fighter compared to the suspicions Jake had been having. A figure crossed the small space he could see, just from the back Jake could see the man was tall, painfully thin and had a pony-tail.
“Temporary measure, Councilman Campo.” The man said “This will all be for the common good and you will all see it my way soon enough.”
Jake thought really hard. He didn't keep up on news, especially politics, but he didn't think man was on the council. How had this happened? How had some stranger walked into the center of government and claim its power for himself?
“You can't just expect this will end as you want it to.” Campo told him. “The people of this world are fiercely independent. I've warned them they need to forge a common identity myself, but not for the reasons you might think.”
The man raised both arms into the air as if he were surrendering. “Oh enlighten me, newcomer to the council.”
Mr. Campo gave a grim smile. “They will not accede to your demand. The people of this planet aren't the kind who would trade their freedom for anything you could promise them. I know it has happened all through human history, maybe it will happen here in the future. Not now, though, you could offer them heaven itself and they would throw you out on your ear.”
The man laughed. “Do you think I haven't done my homework? There is one thing that is more precious than heaven on this world. Water.”
Campo's head dropped and his shoulders sagged.
“These men joined me for water and enough land to start their own colonies once Oasis is a lush green utopia. Their all going to be filthy rich. Your army has become my army. Everyone will fall into line for water. To see Oasis bloom they would sign a new Constitution, I only want to rule for 99 years.” The man said, Jake couldn't believe that a maniac like this had already fooled many Authority soldiers. He wondered how many outside or sent to the lakefront to fight even knew what was happening.
“They might fall into line to save the people you took as hostages.” someone said “They won't really mean it. Someone will come and stop you.”
The man laughed again. “The Star League will be happy to see Oasis united and becoming more than a dry dirtball. Sure, it won't lift a finger to bring water and it won't lift one to stop me.”
The man turned around. Suddenly Jake started to recognized that face. Almost handsome but with that ugly scar on his left cheek. It just could not be true. “The Cavers, the Caravans, the Riders and others all want to have their own green lands, I can give it to them. Why should it all be localized in this one valley?”
It made no economic sense to bring ice asteroids from the outer system, unless this pirate was planning to restart the colonization process. Why would the Star League stand aside and let this happen? How could Matt Dillinger have taken over the council and army?
He crawled back to the kitchen where he found Bolt nibbling on some fruit. He looked up and slid over to Jake. “What did you find out?”
Jake breathed a deep sigh. “Space pirates.”
Bolt tilted his head. “Sun stroke?”
“Matt Dillinger is in there. The council is shackled. The hostages aren't moving, as if they were scared to move. He bribed the soldiers to join him!” Jake told Bolt all this, hardly believing it was real. “I have a feeling that he isn't alone either. Where are his ships? His men?”
If the Star League had paid any attention to Oasis before maybe this wouldn't be happening, how could they let a member world be invaded? This violates the charter is so many ways. The Star League could have sent ships to drag the ice asteroids to Oasis without a coup. Maybe Dillinger was lying and the League knew nothing, which would make sense. The League really didn't pay attention to the desert world.
Quickly they were back outside the council building. The air show was still happening, there was a soldier on the ground in the road with a boomerazor in his chest. As they watched a laser zapped one of the dragons like it was a bug and it headed toward the ground. The pilot was able to pull up barely but it simply lessened the impact as it hit a barn.
Jake ran to the barn and opened the door. There were small fires breaking out, he saw Bolt start winding the pump next to the door. Water began dribbling from the ceiling pipes as Jake walked through the mess. He found broken dragon parts and then a pilot on a stack of hay, unmoving. He grabbed the body and turned it over and both he and Ria yelled at the same time.
Link to Part Four
Link to Part Four
You can support stories like this by contributing anything to the tip jar (sidebar)