Part one of Rebellion
Khan sat and listened closely to Akhen’s plan. Despite the age-old conflict between their planets, the two men respected each other. Khan was the unchallenged leader of the Drana prisoners; what he said was law. The rest of the Drana sat and stared with loathing in their eyes at the Nephile talking with their leader. But for any of them to challenge Khan over his actions meant broken bones at the very least. The two men conversed for hours while the rest slept. “You’d better return to your dormitory, Akhen; the guards will be coming soon. I’ll sleep on your plan and meet you tomorrow night,” he said, as they parted company.
Khan had been commander of the Imperial Guard before his fall from grace. His outstanding service to the empire had been rewarded many times. On two occasions, he had foiled attempts on the life of the new emperor Nagesh. In gratitude, he was promoted to Imperial Grand Marshal of the Drana armed forces. Khan had problems coming to terms with the political life he found himself caught up in. His blunt manner did not go down well with those at court. He hated the intrigue and downright lying, which was the stock in trade of the politicians and advisers surrounding Nagesh. His wife Shantha worried for her husband, wishing he had stayed just a simple commander. The handsome young soldier she married twenty years earlier had turned into a battle-hardened, intolerant veteran. He did not suffer fools, and as for liars…
What Akhen said made good military sense to Khan. Between them, they would hatch a plan, with a number of alternative options, should it prove impossible. The young warrior impressed him. He came from a good house. The great grandnephew of the legendary Hor was a force to be reckoned with. Better for now to keep him onside. Besides, he liked the plain speaking young Nephile. Tomorrow would soon be here; then the fun would begin.
The long shift in the mines followed its usual dull dangerous path and eventually the workforce was back in the dormitories. Akhen, Mentep, and Seti were sitting in silence over their meal when Hoetep appeared. For the moment, they did not see Khan hanging back in the shadows.
“Brother, I’m back,” Hoetep announced. Mentep hugged his young brother. “Put me down you big oaf,” Hoetep said, through gritted teeth. Akhen and Seti welcomed their friend. Seti passed across Hoetep’s food bowl. As he attacked the contents of the bowl, he began to tell them about the work now in progress down in level eight. The Negan veins had petered out and the mine tunnels were being expanded for storage. “The Khaz and Drana down there are keeping quiet about what it is they’ll be storing,” said Hoetep, between mouthfuls.
Khan chose now to make his appearance. Mentep spun round and bowled him over. “Let him up Mentep, he’s a friend,” Akhen said, trying to free Khan from Mentep’s vice-like grip.
“You call this Drana filth a friend?” Mentep snarled, as he tightened his grip. By now, Khan was succumbing under the pressure of the big Nephile’s hands. Hoetep knocked his brother sideways with a stool and dragged the nearly unconscious Drana away. Seti was sent to fetch Nefer and the women, while Hoetep went to invite the Drana. Once Khan had recovered, the two men presented their plan. Its success depended on cooperation between the age-old enemies.
With Akhen and Khan presenting a united front, the time for old quarrels was now past. Word quickly spread around the dormitories. A system of couriers under Khan’s lieutenant, Manouf, was set up. Seti initiated a group of ‘thieves’ to steal anything and everything useful. Hoetep and Raman, another Drana miner, would look for disused or unsafe tunnels to hide their finds. Mentep and Kasim, Raman’s cousin, would gather intelligence. Any information, no matter how insignificant, was a potential weapon. The entire mining population now had a purpose for their otherwise mundane existence. So long as nothing aroused the Khaz guards’ suspicions and no one was caught, the first part of the operation would succeed.
Part two tomorrow.