Battle of Haibi Chapter 9

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Previous: Battle of Haibi Chapter 8: Not a Big Deal at All

Chapter 9: 'Tis the Season

The crow only picks the green sunflower seeds out of Shinzoo's hand. He ate just one, and now, he's just knocking them onto the aviary's floor. He obviously doesn't like the taste of them. He's ignoring the bits of fresh corn, even though he likes them, and the green-beige chick peas as well. The crow carefully pulls out all the sunflower seeds, and once satisfied that there are no more in his hand, relaxes.

Shinzoo's thumb is very sore from the weight of the crow perched on his hand. He offers the crow his perch back. The crow shifts his weight from one foot to the other a few times, then decides to sit on both his feet for a while, fluffing out his feathers and settling down onto his perch until his toes are no longer visible under the lignite-colored feathers. The extended contour feathers served to hide the white bandages tying his broken wing to his body, and thus he looks healthier than he did before, but not much.

Shinzoo dumps the handful of seeds into the crow's cup, "Hagane will probably be intrigued by that. I haven't got the faintest idea how it could be part of a medical study. Oh, well." He shake's the boy's hand, "You've trained him very well, keep up the great work."

Tori says, "No trouble at all."

Tess, with the burns, stands on the perch beside Freddo.

Toes visible only to her, Freddo deftly signs, "Nice poem."

She doesn't seem satisfied. Suddenly she tightens up her mangled plumage and pins her eyes, realizing the significance of the little girl's poem. She just walked up to the outside of the aviary and recited. "If the birdie's ghost can sing while he can't be seen, he likes corn. If the birdie's ghost must be quiet instead, he likes sunflower. If birdie doesn't know, whatever's left is his favorite fare." And then she walked away.

Neither the girl, nor the doctor have any idea of the significance of what they did.

"Juuyonban-chan," Tori whispers in alarm, "otenki des'ka?"

Tess relaxes, gives the boy a slight nod.

Tori breathes a sigh of relief.

Roku is frantically smacking a tablet computer over and over again, with different fingers folded and extended. Very new to Toganese, she is reading the bronze tags with the glowing red glyphs inside the wall and using this device to translate them. As her phone rings, she knocks the computer out of her other hand. Just before it is to strike the water, the glowing carabiner on its corner, tied to nothing else, arrests the fall, and as it hovers in mid air, Roku's right arm grabs at a rope that does not exist. The glowing computer clacks against the edge of the stone catwalk.

"Oh, yeah," she mutters. Her wings flex under the battle robe, and the computer rises from peril apparently of its own accord, or perhaps that of the radiant white carabiner attached to its corner, then she answers her insistently chirping phone.

<Roku, my old friend,> it is Samurai, <Willow Branch gives the happiest answer to your question. How are things with you?>

"Boss, I-" she pauses, trying to let the tension flow off her toes into the moat, "I ... like the way mizo soup perculates when it's hot. Would you like to share a bowl for lunch?"

The sigh on the line sounds like so many things. Things like "I'll make a spy out of you yet, Roku", and "I'm glad you're making progress." He knows that lunch means she has a lot to discuss. <See you at two o'clock. You're the one with the boat.>

Even a dumb eavesdropper with any significant knowledge would question if he was really talking about the time. Lunch is always at noon for these two. He meant the cafe in Defense Tower Two.

Roku spends two more minutes pulling herself back together, stoops to pick up the portable computer, and proceeds to start slapping it around again with Toganese hand signals she doesn't yet understand.

Kabocha is walking along the top of the roof at close to the zenith of the day, somehow undistressed under the shining sun in his battle robe and mask. He pauses and looks out thoughtfully over the wall. His robe flexes almost inperceptibly at the command of his wings hidden beneath. "Sector Four," he says, "I, as, always, am expecting your best for this training operation Nifty Jingles." Then he barks, "All wings, battlestations! This is a drill. All wings, battlestations! This is a drill."

This is the wierdest battle drill that has ever been conducted. Around him, gunners leave their turrets and pod elevators emerge from the flat roof of the wall. Haibane emerge with coils of barbed wire and bundles of poles. Kabocha calmly grabs one from an assistant and starts spooling it out.

A shocked wraith hiding in a shadow, uncloaked, is startled as he is discovered, and shot dead before he is cloaked. What caught him off guard is that he was in Sector Two, not Four. In less than ten minutes, the new anti-wraith fence is up.

That night, through binoculars, not-quite six metre tall snorting red beast stares at the new feature. The barbs, tipped with hikarinium, glow like cheap Christmas lights against a sky washed in grey from Haibi's own lamps inside the wall's perimeter. Trying to remain calm, the monster lowers his outsized binoculars, a pair of catiabatic telescopes, really, from his angrily glowing eyes. "'Tis the season, I suppose," he growls. He's a safe forty kilometres away. He reaches down and taps a bag on his belt, the loose objects within rattle reassuringly. Some tension drains from his huge frame.

He turns to his left, and, rather than wait for his personal elevator (being the only creature of this size), he impatiently jumps down the shaft, announcing his arrival in Siege Command with a small earthquake. The attendant imps and commandos scatter into branching hallways wherein he does not fit. Ducking slightly, he stomps the short distance into the underground command center, and takes his seat in the middle.

"Master Erebus," someone says, "There are only two left inside."

"Not so complacent as we were led to believe," the huge commander grumbles. Then, with a sadistic, evil grin baring fangs as big as the hips of wrestlers, he adds, "Pray that your flight be not in the winter or on the day of rest, Saturday" [Matthew 24:20] Four gruff laughs, "He he he he," growl through out the camoflaged fortification, "Our winter solstice attack will be more fun this way ... On that day, everyone ... who survives, that is ... shall feast on the last humans and baby angels .... make sure you don't get their halos stuck in your teeth." Just under three weeks away.

No one laughs except the boss of this outfit. The imps, commandos and revenants manning the consoles around him know what he means by "survive". Erebus has a reputation for killing his own staff should they err in battle.

Next: Battle of Haibi Chapter 10: Tribulation

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