The story so far:
No one dared leave Renni alone after the incident at Carters workshop. Carter, Mrs. Shoes, even Mr. Sharp were told. The rest of the camp remained in ignorance of what had passed between the two. Neither Renni nor Norman Kindle had brought it up to their campmates. To Renni, this was a relief.
For two days, she had little privacy. Not that she minded. She smiled often in those days, knowing one great thing had come out of the incident. Mr. Sharp had left his cabin and started walking around again.
They still spent their early mornings together. Afterwards, he left his cabin and usually did not return until late at night. He didn’t follow her. He followed Norman Kindle, never letting the man out of his sight. For a man held together mostly by machines, he moved quickly when needed. To Mr. Sharp, he was most definitely needed.
Thomas spent his days working with Renni. They had decided to wait to tell the camp the good news. A lot could happen in the days between those first transmissions and the Harbinger’s arrival. It would be better to not let them get their hopes up, just in case. That and they did not want to start a panic.
Marshal, Renni, Thomas, and Phys were the only ones who knew the truth behind the coming Harbingers. They’d been warned in the transmissions of the following Mongerer ship. Because of this threat, the four, with the loyal, unquestioning help of their friends, had begun preparing the camp as best they could.
“These are surprisingly light,” Renni said, hefting another pack of medical supplies.
“Yes, yes. Light. Good for travel.” Phys’ neck rose from his body, stretching tall and looking over her head down the trail. The best place for the transport landing was on the opposite side of Marshal’s ship in an adjoining valley. “Head’s up,” the shelled doctor said as his head quickly sucked back to his body.
“And what exactly are you all doing here?”
Renni did not look at Norman Kindle. She felt his eyes on her back as she made her way down the slope of the trail “We’re preparing for a surprise, Mr. Kindle,” she said, her voice surprisingly neutral. Thomas took the pack from her, his eyes ablaze with fury, a string of curses caught in his throat. Renni smiled reassuringly and turned to face her nemesis.
“I’m so glad you are alright after our little misunderstanding the other day,” Norman said, bending at the middle in an elaborate bow.
“Misunderstanding?!” Thomas nearly threw the pack of med supplies down in his fury. Phys caught him and took the pack away.
“Thomas not carry fragile pack when angry. As Renni say, ‘Note to self.’” He shuffled off down the mountain.
“Yes, Thomas,” Renni said, holding her hand out to stop her friend from charging. “A misunderstanding. I think Mr. Kindle and I understand each other now. Don’t we, Mr. Kindle?”
“Call me Norman, please. And yes, I do believe we understand each other now.” A glint of pale gray reflected from the trail as Mr. Sharp hobbled towards them. “Although, you might want to call off your watchdog.” The smile never left Norman’s face.
“Mr. Sharp is no one’s ‘watchdog.’ He’s free to go wherever he pleases.” Renni waved to her no longer invalid friend. “I can’t help it if he prefers your company, Mr. Kindle.”
“Ah, yes, well… I suppose not. Speaking of dogs, I do hope your poor puppy is doing well. I feel so terrible how I lashed out at her. Do forgive me?”
Renni bristled but managed to hold her smile. “Mina is doing fine under the tender ministrations of Phys and Thomas. She’ll be her rambunctious self again in no time.”
Norman Kindle did not mention her lack of forgiveness nor did Renni offer any evidence that she would give it. Instead, she went back to work, lifting packs of supplies and handing them off to Thomas who then handed them off to Phys. They’d created a bucket line all the way down the trail. Below, others worked to clear trees and boulders, each person curious why the work had begun and each with their own theories. Many asked questions, and though the four conspirators desired to be truthful to their fellow campmates, each knew the only answer they could give at that time was that it was a surprise.
As she bent down to grab another crate-like pack, Norman suddenly moved in close. Out loud he said, “Let me help you with that.” As he helped her lift, he whispered, “I know what you’re up to.”
“Really?” She took the pack from him and handed it to a tense Thomas. “Relax,” she whispered to her friend before turning back to her enemy. “Everyone here does have their theories, Mr. Kindle. What is yours?”
“My theory? Oh, I don’t have theories. I have facts. I know exactly what is going on.” He leaned in a little closer. “And I’ll tell you what, Renaissance, I’m not going to let you get away with it.” He stalked off after that, followed by a diligent Mr. Sharp. Exasperated, Renni shook her head and watched them disappear down the trail towards the tents.
Marshal strode up the trail, his pace quick and intent. He paused only a moment to watch the retreating form of Norman Kindle before practically running towards her. “We talk now,” he rasped in her ear before making his way further up the mountain.
Renni handed her last pack to Thomas before following her teacher. She did not catch up to him until they reached his ship. He motioned for her to enter and closed the hatch behind them.
“What’s wrong, Marshal?”
“We have problem. Big problem.” She cocked her head to the side and waited, that familiar lump in her stomach back. Marshal led her deeper into his ship until they reached what she knew to be the cockpit. There, a panel similar to her gauntlets shimmered and shifted, becoming three dimensional. On it, she saw two ships moving quickly towards one large orb. She knew the ships, the smaller being the transport and the larger belonging to the Mongerers. In horror, she watched the larger overtake the smaller and pass it.
The orb grew in size until it resembled their mountain and the two adjoining valleys. The Mongerer ship filled the sky above the shimmering representation of their home. “Oh God,” she whispered. “They’ll get here first.”
“We must prepare.”
She turned to Marshal who moved away from the panel to another strange device. He removed his gloves and motioned with his fluid digits in front of the machine, his vibrations telling it what he needed. Lights glowed bright as on a shelf something appeared, seemingly out of thin air. Energy transformed itself into a rifle. He picked it up and handed it to her. “For Mr. Sharp.” He motioned to the machine again.
Renni stared at the weapon in her hands. “How much time do we have, Marshal?”
“They come tomorrow.”