Chapter 3 - Malaki - Part 2

Superior officers in the Manst military had a saying, “If the sun gets up before you, it’s because you’re dead.”

New recruits laughed when they heard it at first but quickly learned that it was more than just a saying. It drove every military drill and exercise as well as every war-time operation. By the time the sun had risen in the sky, every enlisted officer in the Manst military had been up for several hours.

Being in this village was no exception. Rothaki’s internal alarm had him up early to do the same strength training exercises he had done nearly every morning for as long as he could remember. He dressed and ate something small before leaving his room to head towards the garage. 

Though he didn’t really get hurt from the events of the last night, his body ached from the effort. His normal route to the garage had him walking past the same bar, and because it was only hours since the fight, dried blood was still on the pavement. As he passed, Rothaki ran through the events again in his mind. 

He was only defending himself. Any blows he landed were purely out of self-preservation. He made no aggressive moves towards anyone, and should someone try to pin this incident on him, surely that girl would speak up. She said she saw the whole thing. 

But to be safe, he decided to keep his head down for as long as it took for things to blow over. With any luck, the incident would not come up in conversation.

Nearly every day since beginning his job, Rothaki arrived at the garage before anyone else. Because of this, Silver gave him a copy of the key and told him if he lost it, it would be out of his pay. He hadn’t been long at work when the office door suddenly swung open and Silver yelled out, “Rothaki!” Rothaki turned to see the old man casting a long shadow across the concrete floor as his large body filled up the door frame.

“I am not sure what you got yourself into, but it couldn’t have been good. Silas Canning sent for you, so stop whatever you are working on and get going.” Silver didn’t pause to ask questions or let Rothaki respond; he just turned and slammed the door shut. 

Putting down his tools, Rothaki grabbed a rag and cleaned up as best he could before heading out the door. Glancing around the other bays in the garage, he noted that the men he ran into last night had not come in. If not for this summons, he would have felt good about putting the incident behind him.

As he made his way toward Silas Canning’s office, Rothaki wondered at the reason for his being called. Surely it had to be the fight outside the bar. As he walked, he had settled on the only reason being that the girl, Loomie, told Silas what had happened, and he would have to give an answer for the events.

Approaching Central, Rothaki didn’t see much out of the ordinary. People were moving about as usual, going in and out of the buildings. Some strode with purpose, running some kind of errand, while others seemed not in a hurry to get anywhere or do anything. A few glanced at him as they passed, but most just kept to themselves. 

As he approached, the same two guards stood outside Canning’s office, and when he began climbing the steps to the door they moved in unison, grabbing the handles and swinging the double doors aside. Rothaki nodded and entered the large open space. Before he had gotten too far he had confirmed the reason for his being called to the office of the tribe leader.

The first thing he noticed was Silas Canning. The man demanded attention. Dressed in slightly worn pants and a close fit, neatly pressed shirt that clung to his upper body, Canning turned to face Rothaki. He leaned back against the large table he was in front of and folded his arms across his chest, unveiling a curious side arm which Rothaki had only now noticed. 

The portion of the weapon that protruded from the holster appeared to be as white as bone. In fact, it appeared to Rothaki to be actual bone. 

Not wanting to linger on the piece, Rothaki glanced around the room, noticing two of the men he had run into last night outside the bar. Both of them seemed pretty bruised up but glared at him nonetheless, appearing to want a second chance at him right then and there.

Loomie, however, was expressionless as she leaned against the wall watching him. It was impossible to read her intent. 

Rothaki felt nervous all of the sudden. This was not how he wanted this to go. His goal was to blend in, to keep his head down. Only a short time after arriving in the village he was already being brought in for questioning. 

Rothaki returned back to Silas, “You wanted to see me, sir?”

Canning didn’t move, he just spoke. “You seem like a smart man Rothaki, so I am sure you know why I called you here.” Not waiting for a response, he continued, “This village is small. We have survived as long as we have because of our resourcefulness. We take the time to understand each others skills, and people fill as many roles as their skill sets allow. This has been the primary reason our people have thrived in this barren wasteland, because people are willing to be used in more than one capacity.” 

Rothaki said nothing. He just kept eye contact with Silas. 

Silas glanced over at the two men, “Davis and Chiles here are two such individuals.” Silas looked back at Rothaki, meeting his gaze as he went on. “Both men were decorated combatants for the countries they came from. They have proven their worth enough to become part of my elite guard. Which means, in assaulting them last night, you violated one of our laws which holds a penalty of banishment from our village.”

Assaulting? Rothaki’s stomach sank. Surely this was a joke. If anyone was assaulted it was him. His heart began to race. 

Rothaki dismissed any decoram he may have had as he spoke up, “What do you mean assaulted? These men jumped me.” He glanced over at the two men, who seemed to expect Rothaki to go quietly. When he did not, a wave of panic flashed across both of their faces. 

Davis, who was the instigator of the fight the night before, quickly recovered and pointed a finger at Rothaki, “Mind who you’re talking to Rothaki!” He retorted. 

Silas stood up from the table he was leaning against and raised a hand to stay Davis, who appeared ready to cross the room at Rothaki. 

“These two men came to me and said you were looking for a fight, are you calling my men liars?” Before he could respond, Silas added, “Speak carefully here son.”

Rothaki was set to defend himself. He had done nothing wrong. He had recounted the events in his head multiple times and was convinced he had given Davis and his friends plenty of chance to back off. Before he could respond as such, Loomie stepped forward from the corner. 

“Rothaki is right. I was there and saw the entire thing,” she said, walking forward to stand just behind Rothaki. 

Davis and Chiles stood taller, now wide-eyed. If anyone had Silas Canning’s ear, it was Loomie. 

Loomie continued before the two men could protest, “Rothaki crossed the street away from the bar so as to avoid these two idiots and the rest of their drunken group.” 

Rothaki turned to look at her, but she kept her eye on Davis and Chiles. Rothaki looked over at Davis as he responded, “Listen Loomie, you stay out of this, you….” He was cut short by Silas.

“STOP!” 

Davis and Chiles turned sharply to look at Silas who was now glaring at them. “Measure your next words carefully Davis.” Silas pointed at Rothaki but kept his eye sternly on the two men, “Did this man start the fight or not?” 

Chiles had not said a word the entire time, and he wouldn’t get a chance. As Davis started to speak, Silas must have seen something in his expression that gave him the answer, because Silas cut him off, “Leave Now. Go back to your work. I will deal with this later.” 

Davis’ mouth hung open for only a moment before he started for the door. He glanced coldly at Rothaki as he passed, leading Chiles out the door.

Rothaki’s heart still raced. Silas lowered his head and drew in a slow breath before turning to face him and Loomie, who had now taken a few more steps forward next to him. 

Silas turned, standing up tall and looked at Rothaki, “I am sorry for accusing you Rothaki. I made a mistake in trusting Davis without asking questions.”

Rothaki simply nodded in response, not feeling it was appropriate to speak just yet. Silas didn’t wait for response either as he added, “If Loomie here had not been wandering around last night, you may very well have found yourself outside of the village by now.” 

Silas’ tone seemed to be a slight jab towards Loomie, but Rothaki again thought it best not to speak. Loomie, however, responded. 

“I couldn’t sleep, so I went out for a walk. It was a good thing I did or Mr. Malaki here would have beat that entire group to a pulp,” Loomie said, still standing next to Rothaki. 

Silas raised an eyebrow at this, “About that, you don’t seem to have as much as a scratch on you Rothaki, and Davis and Chiles are two of my most well trained men.” He backed up to the table, leaning against it once again and folding his arms across his chest. Tilting his head back slightly, enough to seem genuinely intrigued, he continued, “I know that Silver seems to like you enough to promote you, but it would seem you are more than just a good mechanic.”

Sticking with anonymity, Rothaki responded, “I was born the smallest of twins. Growing up, most stuck to verbal abuse, others were more violent. I had to learn to defend myself early.”  

Silas tilted his head forward, obviously intrigued. It was no secret that Sonto twins were rare, and in all cases throughout recorded history, one of the twins was born smaller. 

It wasn’t a lie, but it wasn’t the entire truth either, and Silas seemed to be a bit suspicious. 

“If there is one thing I have learned out here in the desert, it is that everyone who comes to this village comes with something to hide.” He looks straight at Rothaki, as if aware that he is keeping something hidden. “One doesn’t easily handle two highly trained military operatives without also being highly trained, whether militarily or otherwise.” 

Rothaki responded, opening up a bit more, “I do have some military training, but I was not in long before…” Rothaki didn’t finish his sentence. 

In one swift motion Silas drew his sidearm from its holster and fired a round directly over Rothaki’s shoulder. 

Rothaki only had time to lower his head slightly and raise his hands as the loud echo of the weapon was followed by splintering wood. 

Rothaki quickly turned to look behind him as the two guards burst into the room, weapons drawn. As he turned he noticed that Loomie had fallen to a crouch, and she too was turning to look behind them. They all looked at the wall where a smoking hole had opened up.

Behind him, Rothaki heard Silas speak, “It’s ok fellas. I am fine. You can return to your post.” Rothaki looked back at the tribe leader. His left hand was raised to calm the guards, but in his right he held a smoking side arm, the likes of which he had never seen.

Rothaki didn’t take his eyes off Silas or the side arm. His heart was still pounding as the guards lowered their weapons and retreated from the room. Next to him Loomie was rising back to her feet, eyes wide. 

Silas lowered his left hand, but with his right, rotated the pistol, offering the grip of the weapon to Rothaki. “How are you with a weapon?” he asked. 

For the purpose of preserving his freedom, it was Rothaki’s intent to hide who he really was as completely as possible. Silas, however, seemed not to be fooled by this attempt, having displayed an ability to read him. Surely telling him the truth was out of the question. 

Silas was an outlaw, living in a village in the wilderness. He was a man of honor and principle. He fought for the freedom of his people and worked hard to preserve the life they had built, even if it meant standing up to the larger nations surrounding the wastelands they called home. If he found out that Rothaki was formerly a ranking military officer with Manst, easily the worst of those nations, he would surely be worse off.

However, because Silas was a man of honor, he didn’t accept being lied to, so Rothaki made a decision. He stepped forward, took the pistol in his hand, and without so much as a glance fired another shot at the same wall. This time,  no wood splintered, and the hole remained as it was.

The sound of the round exploding from the chamber alerted the guards again who burst through the door, weapons trained on Rothaki, who was now holding the pistol. Silas, quickly raised a hand and shouted, “Hold your fire!” He glanced over Rothaki’s shoulder at the wall and began laughing heartily. 

“Congratulations on your promotion Rothaki, you are welcome to return to your work.” Silas took the side arm and holstered it before adding, “I will be keeping an eye on you.”

With that, Silas waved at the guards who had twice been forced into action. “It’s ok, let him leave.” That was enough for them. They lowered their weapons and escorted out Rothaki, who thanked Loomie for stepping in on his behalf. 

She just stared at him in disbelief, still processing what had happened over the last several minutes.

Chpt. 3 Pt. 2- Written by Matt Henderson, Created by Micah Metz, Edited by Alex Gergely

Matt Henderson