Holiday. What a wonderful word!
Moseying along the streets of Tremplawn, she felt more at home there than she would have imagined. This was the first alien planet, besides Coruscunt, she had visited while on leave. And it felt like home. Listening carefully, as was her habit, to the inflections of the various subcultures, she found herself able to pass as a rather mild mannered Bringa. Her height and cultivated accent helped there, even to the point of getting the better side of a few bargains.
The other part of the culture she found fascinating, and here her red hair helped immensely, were the Ginjend. Tall warriors, they seemed to take her measure at a glance, and everyone she met found her to be a child of their people. Mayina realized she was rather proud of herself for not taking their acceptance and overlooking attitudes any sort of slight. Back on Farpoint, she knew she was considered short, but that was due largely to the fact that most of the male population was over six feet tall. That fact made her sometimes touchy about her height, but here she found it to be a useful advantage.
After a day of shopping, and an eventful evening of celebrating - having accidentally stumbled upon a large wedding reception-like party and being pulled in to join the festivities - she was grateful that her schedule would be much, much more relaxed than if she were staying in the city.
Catching an early flight by airship - the vessel packed full of vacationers returning at a leisurely pace to their homes north of the Bitten mountains - she avidly watched the ground rush past with child-like pleasure.
"First time flying, child?" an elderly Ginjend asked, smiling indulgently.
"No ma'am, but I love it just the same." Mayina giggled.
That acquaintance led to much discussion and intel while they made their two day journey across the mountains and into the rugged forests of the north. Spending the first morning, once they had docked, with the kindly woman named Yanya Atama and her friends, the young researcher realized why she felt so comfortable around the older Ginjend and her complex - the building was too large to simply be called a house - full of her children and grandchildren.
It was just like home.
Sipping a hot drink she could swear was coffee, Mayina thought she would be homesick for Opa's house on the ocean where her many and motley cousins had involved her in many intrigues. Rather, she watched the truly young ones play tricks on each other with uproarious laughter.
"Mina, Mina!" the smallest boy, Rege, who was as tall as her tugged at her sleeve to invite her to play.
Capering around the building and finally spilling out into the dusty street, the pack of cousins led her around their village - each one eager to be the person to point out some strange, new sight 'Mina' had never seen. Though this was not on her itinerary, Mayina found herself grateful for the experience of simply being a carefree child again.
Introducing them to the rules of freeze tag, she was merrily winded by the end of the sunny afternoon.
While her playmates were off finishing neglected chores, their worn out guest took a very vacation-like nap in the shade. It was all around a rather pleasant way to spend the day - it most definitely beat hiking to the middle of nowhere to simply sit (or stand) there fishing like Rowan was doing. Watching clouds roll past, she couldn't help but to grin at the thought of her friend Rowan, actually relaxing and taking a break. She hoped that the sharp wit and sarcasm of the Jack O'Neill would do for her friend's demeanor, though on further thought, she realized she probably would be fielding questions about Earth terms, songs and references from the moment they were to meet up to head through the gate.
The next day, she made arrangements to ride the native horse-like creature south into the old forests toward the mountains. Most of the Ginjend couldn't understand why she wanted to go off by herself, especially being so young and all, but she wondered if Yanya suspected her to not be all she appeared and used her age to command her kin to silence. Lending her one of their beasts, the children all escorted her to the edge of the town offering directions, warnings, and invites to return to stay with them when she had her fill of rugged forests.
Alone at last, Mayina breathed deeply of the strange, yet familiar smells of the woodland. Staring up at the vaulted treetops, she nearly fell from the saddle, so dizzy was she from the sight. This part of the world could pass well for Earth; perhaps somewhere near Vancouver where everyone filmed 'alien' forests. Giggling, again, she began to hum happily to herself.
"C'est la vie. Watashi ga watashi de iru kagiri." she sang the j-pop song with gusto, if not very skillfully, following the proverb of singing as though no one was there to hear. The day was waning into evening before she stopped to make camp beside a small lake fed by a hidden waterfall. She felt the area looked enough like Earth that she ventured to take some pictures of herself and the beautiful scenery to send back home to her family.
The next day, she putzed around the camp, happily basking in the sunlight and open spaces. Since being transferred to Farpoint she seemed to never see the sun. It wasn't nearly as bad as Cheyenne Mountain back on Earth, but the alien-ness of the base seemed to enhance the claustrophobia she felt when hemmed in by duracreet and steel all day. The other thing she always loved about the outdoors was the silence. Not so much the absence of noise, for that only happened when a predator - or loud person - was near, but rather the lack of anyone or thing demanding her attention. No computers and equipment humming away. No geeky scientists trying to talk her up - she was extremely grateful she did not have to deal with anyone trying to chat her up on this trip. The last time she went to Coruscant - though she had never even acknowledged his liking of her - there had been some tension when a certain scientist thought she was seeing somebody else.
Not that she was adverse to the idea, the 'somebody else' was a, mostly, nice guy. But the anxiety he had caused in the lab afterwards was too much. One of these days she was going to have to put her foot down and tell him to take himself off.
Right. One of these days.
She snorted in derision at herself, even she knew she would have to work up a lot of nerve to say anything concrete for fear of hurting peoples feels - always had been, probably always would be. She simply was too nice. Perhaps when she got back, she could have a sit down with Thorn; she always had really good, practical advice.
Sighing heavily, Mayina turned to pat the creature she called Mamouru - the Ginjend had another name, but it was strange to pronounce even for her - only to find him eating the shirt off her back. Cursing fluently, she pulled away, the cloth staying with the animal.
"Mamouru, you creep!" she cried, tugging at the shirt. Using the remaining rag, she wiped the drool off her back. "Yuck. You're one lucky boy, if you had gotten through to my new bikini, you wouldn't make it out of this forest alive, buddy." she threatened the horse in Russian while digging through her pack.
She was searching for a clean top when a twig snap made her head snap up. Only a few short - by any one's measure - steps away were a pair of rather large Ginjend.
"Well, what have we here, Myori." the nearest one spoke, leaning against a convenient tree.
"Looks to be a Ginjend like us Hamm, or maybe a Bringa, but speaks strange words. Perhaps we have an Aryui on our hands?" the other, Myori, replied, insolently staring at her.
"I think you're right. Maybe if we capture it, we'll be famous. And rich!"
"Please stop talking as though I am not standing here." Mayina glared them down, using the Ginjend accent and hoping for all she was worth they would not assault one of their own.
"She speaks like us! Even better." she could hear the greed in his voice.
Reaching for the pistol Yanya insisted she carry, a hand descended to catch her wrist. A single shot discharged in the air as a third Ginjend lifted her off her feet.
"Let me go!" she cried, kicking at him from where she hung in his iron grip. The other two approached, and she managed to kick one in the stomach with her heavy standard issue boots.
Letting out an 'Oof' he recovered very angrily. She twisted away in time to take the blow meant for her gut in the side. It lessened the impact some, but it still knocked the wind out of her.
"How pathetic." a voice from the treeline called, sharp with derision, "Three against one little one. Some warriors you are."
The trio turned in collective anger to find a strange horseman in the shadows of the trees.
"I can't stand those that pick on the weak!" he growled, kneeing his mount into action.
The first Ginjend went down with a pair of boots planted in his face.
The second, tried to land a set of blows on the interloper, but failed and was flattened by a series of blows to the gut.
The last one standing held Mayina before him like a shield. Exchanging his hold on her wrist for one pinning her arms, he swung her like a rag doll at her would-be rescuer. The effect of being thrown around like that was making her dizzy. Mayina had closed her eyes against the nausea and felt something pass close to her face. A moment later, her attacker reeled back and fell; releasing his solid hold on her.
Mayina landed in a heap, but quickly bounded up and away from the now unconscious man. Staring from the downed assailant to her rescuer, she took a step back when he approached her.
"What in the name of all goodness are you doing here alone, child?!" he demanded angrily, his tall frame towering over her. "You could have been hurt!"
She was rather startled by his scolding.
"I. . .I didn't think-" she stuttered.
"No. You didn't think." he roared, towering over her. "What is your name?"
"M-Mayina." she stammered.
"Well, Mina Devaro, what in the name of all that is good are you doing in the woods by yourself? Does your family know where you are?" he demanded, concern out weighing the anger in his voice. "And why do you have Yanya's horse?"
The last question snapped her out of her shock.
"How do you know Yanya?" she demanded, leaping between him and her less than trustworthy steed.
"She is the mother of my father. I am Tori Atama." he added his name as though she should know it. When she showed no sign of recognizing it, he called the horse by name and it went to him. "If you do not know who I am, then I assume you are a runaway that stole this horse from my family. I give you the choice to return with me - and behave yourself - or I leave you with no ride. You might be able to outdistance these three before they come to if you leave now."
Sputtering indignantly at his accusation, she shouted, "I am not a run away. I am an adult! Just because I am shorter than average doesn't mean anything!" she stomped her foot, "Baba Yanya lent me that horse because she knew I wanted to see the forest. She is also the one who gave me a pistol to protect myself."
She fixed him with a look of fury.
It was his turn to step back in alarm, apologizing gracefully, "I. . am sorry. I spoke in haste. You say she gave you a pistol. May I see it?"
Pointing out where the discharged weapon lay, she watched him suspiciously as he looked it over.
"Many apologizes Mina. I believe you now." he handed her back the firearm just as one of the downed men moaned, "Perhaps, we should be on our way?"
Not wasting a moment, Mayina retrieved the clean shirt she had been searching for from her pack, and slipping it on, she saddled up. The pair road at a ground eating trot until the light failed.
* * * * * *
Mayina bolted upright, pistol at the ready, before she realized the alarm was from her comm. Digging the device out of her pocket, the researcher keyed in her security code. Any residual sleepiness was startled out of her by the face of Admiral Burn.
"Attention! This morning, the capital city of Tremplawn was placed under martial law by the Lucretz faction of the military. Civil war has broken out in several areas of the planet. You are hereby instructed to make your way immediately to Extelma City for transport through the Stargate.The Ginjend have given assurances that the Stargate will remain under our control for a period of three days. At the end of that time they will claim the Stargate as their own. You have three days arrive in Extelma City. Be advised that we do not have the resources nor the time to send retrieval teams.
"The situation on the planet is extremely volatile at the moment. Take no risks with your safety. We advise you to be travel incognito. Do not use your comm unless you are in an untenable situation.
"May the Force be with you."
Mayina stared dumbly at the blank screen, processing what had just happened.
"I assume you heard all of that." she demanded of Tori, her grip on the pistol tightening.
"Every word. It explains some of the troop movements I noticed on my way north." he sighed gravely, sitting up to face her. "So you are one of those Rogue Squadron people."
Silence stretched as she tried to think of what to do next.
"Three days isn't a great deal of time. We'll never get you to Extelma on horseback in three days. Come on, we must be going."
Scrambling to her feet, she smiled to herself - easing the trigger - as her companion began stowing his gear.
* * * * * *
The airship field was beginning to lighten with the gray light of false dawn.
Warily watching for her companions return - or for the alarm to be raised - she crouched behind a tarp covered mountain of supplies. Shaking off the chains of fatigue that plagued her from their long ride, she pressed herself back into the shadows as a guard made his rounds. Her breath seemed to come in staggered gasps as she fought off the weight of her eyelids.
If the towns guards weren't on such high alert, she might have been able to simply buy a ticket and return south on the express flight in the morning. But they were checking documents on every person that bought a ticket and cross referencing them to be certain they knew exactly who was flying. Sadly, she could not pass for one of Baba Yanya's grandchildren for they were all well known to the soldiers. Even their vouching for her would not have been enough.
So they set out to steal an airship.
Easier said than done. In this yard alone stood a trio of swift messenger ships. One field over held a pair of gigantic troop movers. Listening to the creak and moan of the anchor lines, Mayina nearly jumped out of her skin when someone whispered her name.
"Mina!" one of Yanya's granddaughters hissed again, "We have to go. Come on, the guard will be round in another few minutes."
Nodding, she followed the pack of youths, amazed at their training and upbringing that was helping them to infiltrate the commercially military base. There were at least a half-dozen of them with her, and maybe another two or three with Tori. He had gone off in search of a certain ships captain he knew well, and could possibly buy off.
Suddenly before them, the light from a guard approached. Ducking into a shadowy corner, the group crowded close.
"Miiru, isn't that Hurb?" someone whispered.
"It is. Have faith Mina, I'll distract him." Miiru smiled, giving Mayinas shoulder a squeeze before slipping out.
The lone soldier was no match for the woman's charm as she flirted and led him distractedly away from her companions. The cousins snickered to themselves as the pair disappeared into the predawn twilight. Creeping along the edge of the field, the group met up with Tori.
"Everything is ready to go. Where's Miiru?" Tori demanded looked over the group.
"Distracting the guards."
Tori stifled a laugh, his eyes bright with mischief.
"Let us make good the distraction. Mina, you ready?"
With a sharp nod, they sprinted off towards a middling-sized vessel and clamored up the ropes. Just like pirates in the old movies, they snuck aboard the ship. Overpowering the crew and securing them in the hold, they were away in moments.
* * * * * *
It was the middle of the afternoon before they saw any sign of pursuit.
The alarm must have been wired ahead, for the airship rose from concealment in the valley of a mountain at the foot of the Bitten range. Taking evasive action, the Atama that was navigating sent the ship into a sharp starboard bank before throwing them into a dive. Holding on as the engines were pushed to the limit, the youngest of the cousins let out a whoop as the airship slipped into the mountain range ahead of their pursuit. Following a twisting maze of valleys and gorges, they finally backed into a ravine hidden from above by thick forest.
"Well, looks like we'll be sitting tight for a bit. Wake me when were ready to leave." their pilot, Daomin, yawned, stretching out beside the pilot box.
The rest of the motley 'crew' made the best of the afternoon as they could. Two of the girls began playing a variation on Cat's Cradle, while the youngest pulled out a thin book and began taking notes from it. The eldest pair of boys volunteered to make everyone some lunch as they had not had much more than travel rations in the last half day.
Tori stood watch over the valley below from the front of the airship. Mayina approached him with a question that had been bothering her for some days now.
"Tori? Why were you in the forest the day we met?"
"Huh? Oh, I was on, what did you call it? Oh, holiday. I was taking the long way home and got lost." he shrugged.
"Eh?! You got lost?" she tried not to laugh, "I guess it was fortunate for me that you did."
"Yep. If I hadn't been lost and heard your pistol fire, who knows what those blackguards would have done. Why did they attack you anyway?"
"I don't know, they called me an Aryui and said they would become rich. Tori, I've been meaning to ask you- what is an Ayrui?"
He let out a burst of laughter. "They thought you were a creature of magic. Though, if they had succeeded in capturing you, they might have been made famous by your being an alien - especially once all your friends go home."
The pair stared thoughtfully out across the valley.
"I hope everyone is OK." she sighed, glancing at Tori, "I have a friend named Rowan who was going fishing somewhere in the Bitten range."
"Not alone like you were, I hope." he spoke sharply.
"No. She's with O'Neill. He'll take care of her. I just worry - she's not one for the outdoors usually." Mayina chuckled softly, "I'll probably have to explain to her a lot of what O'Neill said and did during their trip when we get back." she sighed again worrying at her lower lip, fighting back the concern and helplessness it evoked in her.
"Don't worry, Mina. The Bitten's a big place. Perhaps they will make it back without encountering a single person." he offered, putting his arm around her shoulder.
She nodded, encouraged by his optimism.
"Do you think we'll make it in time?" she wondered softly.
"We'll make it. Tell you what, if - by some chance- we can't get you home, you can always come back and stay with us. You are already one of the family. What do you say?" he smiled, giving her shoulder a squeeze.
"Thank you." she grinned, "You. . you're a very kind. Rooster-Head!"
Giving him a mischievous wink, she scampered out of his grip and bounded across the deck to the galley to check on the lunch preparations. With the food consumed in a flash, and the sun still high in the clear afternoon sky, the younger cousins took over the watch while Mayina and Tori gratefully slept.
Afternoon give way to evening with no sign of the other airship. Before dusk could set in and trap them in the dark valley, they eased their way back into the maze of passes to rise as high as they could over the rocky Bitten. By moonlight, they navigated the freezing air, flying as fast as they dared with the jagged peaks poking out of the clouds to greet them in the darkness.
* * * * * *
She had only a few hours left when the city of Tremplawn came into view.
So far, there had been no sight of their pursuers, but as they neared the capital, they knew they were in for more challenges. Skimming down low on the river, Tori shouted minute coarse corrections as they surprised many ships on the water way. Swinging the ship east, their backs to the setting sun, they came to a stop above the park.
"Ready Mina?" the two girls had checked over her equipment carefully, tightening the harness to compensate her slimmer frame.
"Ready." she told them, fighting the nervous butterflies in her stomach down with a smile.
"Right. Daomin, hold it steady at 25 point 2." Tori commanded, checking the release catch on his own gear. "Here we go!"
Clamping onto the line, he repelled first down into the riverside park. Following suit, Mayina heard weapons fire from below. Chancing a dizzying look below, she caught site of the Stargate in the distance winking closed. Directly below her, Tori was exchanging shots with a group of Ginjend.
Distracted, Mayina hit the ground faster than expected. Slipping the release catch quickly, she rolled behind a bush to catch her breath back. The pack she had been unwilling to leave behind pressed her down into the soft, loam-like grass as she waited for feeling to return to her jarred knees. She hazarded a look around the shrub and ducked back instantly as a stray bullet raced by her face.
To her left, Tori was shouting something at the men shooting at them. In a moment, the crack of gunfire ceased.
"Mina." Tori called, "It's safe to come out now."
Poking her head out, cautiously, she was given a hand by a strange smiling Ginjend.
"Sorry about that miss." he told her, "We didn't know you were one of them Rogue Squadron people. We thought you all were another set of rebels trying to sneak up on us."
Walking beside Tori, they were escorted to the Gate.
"I guess this means good-bye. Thank you for all your help Tori. I never expected to be made part of a family on this trip." she told him, suddenly feeling rather shy.
"If we ever make peace and reopen this thing for trade, make sure you come back to visit us. The Atama house will always welcome you, Mina Devaro of Rogue Squadron." he smiled warmly, making her bush before nearly squeezing the life out of her.
Dialing the DHD, she watched his face light up with wonder at the kawhoosh and laughed. This was not the end, only a 'see you later' moment.
"May we meet again, Tori Atama." she smiled broadly at him as she backed through the event horizon.