Tibetan Militarized Zone, south of Yushu
The expansive plateau and foothills of Tibet sprawled out to the heavenly blue sky. The great earth covered in a mat of young spring grass, blooming in spring life. And under the blue ceiling of heaven sat sprawling across the heights of the ridges, rolling down into erosion carved valleys of the steppe the command center for the Tibetan Militarized Zone.
Formally established in 1949 as the permanent fixed command for the fluid and unresolved situation with Tibet, command had before rotated between posts at Wuwei, Xining, and Chengdu. The nature and location of the command changing based on the conditions against Tibet, the undeclared war which China had with them flaring on and off. It had made questionable gains in the years since the launch of the Western Expedition. It was a long zone of contention, spanning the length of the border from Diqing to the Hotan wastelands. Daily some small incidents erupted with long range skirmishes across the epic valleys of the low steppe, or close altercations with fist and sword and knife in the mountainous alleys under the shadows of immense boulders. Air missions to recon the mountains would receive fire, and combat air wings would sweep the region. Armed bodies of Tibetan soldiers would march down on the Chinese to dislodge a field post or to drive an equal body of Chinese into retreat. Here in this region, the careers and expertise of men were made and specialized.
“I just wanted you to know, that I put in my letter. I'm retiring from the service. I asked the Commission to review you as my replacement.” Quan Yu said, as he sat down at his desk. Across, a younger officer took his own seat, placing his hands on his knees as he watched his superior with deep interest and undivided attention.
Quan Yu was a man of sixty. Having cut his teeth in the revolution he had followed Zhou Enlai west as part of the expedition, and of one of the many junior communist officers the Kuomintang military authority of Whampoa wanted to dispose of. As soon as China filled out into Xinjiang and settled his career come to rest. Now to end at the outer extreme of Tibet. His eyes were deeply eroded, wind scars and sunburns wringing eyes. The wrinkles that rounded them as deep and complex as the landscape in which he had come to live and even start a family for over two decades. The time had balded the officer, scars from combat injuries from the old days were dug deep across his head. A mortar explosion in the fifties had broken an arm before he assumed command, and now it bent backwards and at an angle from his body. His soldier's vigor had drained away and he looked at the world through tired eyes. Yet he was man that none under his command could say they hated. His officer corp looked up to him and he was a fan of the theater, ordering a movie theater built at the command post for all servicemen, general enlisted or otherwise. Yet among his close confidants it was known his heart was elsewhere and not Tibet; he talked of going home to Jiangxi to retire, his children were now almost adults and had not seen their ancestral province.
The younger officer, Feng Lu nodded. Lu was a tall man, and his face was soft. Cosmopolitan. The fact that unlike many of the other older officers who had come into the army from the peasant class and who had hardened themselves through the blood and the grit of the revolution was well evident in his demeanor and his outward appearance. An officer that embraced the cleanliness of the new army, the manners of the army at peace, though he was in the last combat zone in China. He did not wear his hair wild, and he combed it back across his head with the assistance of hair cream to keep it held tight. He was closely manicured, his face narrow and pointed. Despite he youth, and metropolitan cleanliness he betrayed a sharp awareness in his eyes. Eagle-like. He pressed his lips flat before he spoke in a low voice, “I understand. I congratulate you decision, sir.”
Yu smiled, “It was a long time coming.” he said with a rattling sigh. “The status of the region hasn't changed much in the last ten or so years. While I hold you in complete confidence of doing anything, I do not imagine you would have a difficult time. And if things are to change, I don't think you'll have problems either. You have the entire weight of the army at your back.”
“I understand.” Lu said, “And the Commission willing, I'm eager to take up whatever challenge they send my way.”
Quan Yu smiled, and nodded, “I'm sure they'll agree. There is much to do, especially if Congress let's us do it. Perhaps it might be worth doing a strategic briefing. It would not help to get you started early.”
Feng Lu nodded, and followed his commander as he stood up from the small desk. Lu kept a small, tidy office. Not much larger than a closet, it was dominated primarily by his desk and several tightly packed bookshelves. Poking out from corners lit by the light from the room's single window stood portraits and photographs of the man's family. A short letter singing his praises from one of his then young sons hung on the door, framed and at eye level as they left.
They walked down the concrete corridors of the headquarters. Perched at the top of a rise they could look down into the valley below through the wide panoramic panes along the exterior hallway. A single switchback road whipped back and forth up the steep rocky slope with its emerald grass and blooming spring flowers. At the bottom of the valley the rest of the base sprawled itself out through the narrow crevices.
The headquarters were cold and drafty on account of no air conditioning in the halls. Only in a few offices or conference rooms were there stoves or radiators to heat the space in the winter. And on this early spring day, with the snow melted, the air was cold and bitter. The two men closed their coats tight against them. Passing offices and NCOs they met stood stiffly to salute them, their cheeks rosy and flush in the cold air of the passages.
“This will be yours to command, eventually.” Quan Yu smiled, authoritatively, “I hope you enjoy it. It's a fair enough posting.”
“I've enjoyed hiking the hills.” Feng Lu said, relaxed, “Have you been to the Yunnan Pocket?” he asked, referring to the southern extreme of the command zone.”
“A couple times. I've never explored it however. But I've been there.”
“The landscape is dramatic when you get well inside. The forests are a thing of magic, and the height of the mountains are astounding. It's wild and ancient there, impossible.”
“So I've heard from the units there. Men tend to get lose on patrol. The locals are uneasy about them as well. We've conducted intelligence research on the area to find if there is any link to Lhasa's politics affecting them. Or if it's just the soldiers interfering with the land. If I would call any area of concern, it'd be Yunnan. I've tried to find more suitable places to put men to not inflame tensions. Our fortune is it's not an active location, but we need someone there to survey it.”
“I can understand the need.”
They came to the end of the short hall and another wing of the command center. Here, General Quan Yu opened the door and granted his successor to be access to a briefing room. “You'll be spending a lot of time here if they accept.” he said, turning on the lights. They popped and sputtered and soon illuminated the room in a warm yellow glow. He walked over to a radiator in the corner, and turned it on. It kicked and hissed, shaking violently against the wall before settling and quieted.
In the center of the room was a long table for maybe twenty people. At the head a large paper map hung on the wall. It showed in over view a map of the region. Stickers scattered over the map showed the location of deployments and bases. Other stickers, red showed the suspected location of Tibetan forces. “I'll try my best to over-view things from memory. When the process of succession begins the detailed work will begin. Take a seat, comrade.”
Feng Lu bowed, and walked to a chair and took a seat. With the practiced routine of the instructor Quan Yu moved to the board and began explaining the situation:
On the whole, the Chinese side of the border was occupied by twenty-thousand men stretched across the whole of the Chinese border. During the time of the conflict with Tibet since preliminary invasion by Zhou Enlai the bulk of the fighting had occurred over southern Qinghai and Xinjiang. It always came as skirmishes. Chinese offensive efforts had been frustrated by the hard terrain of Tibet. In the field intelligence from the time and gathered since strongly indicated that the Tibetan forces were armed with comparatively modern fire arms, which while at this time would be out of date in an open field of battle had the advantage that equalized them against the Chinese in the high mountains of the Himalayas. The conflict stagnated and stalled. The inability of the Tibetans to make headway against the Chinese has since been confirmed by their inability to assault the Chinese positions. To a point, Chinese air power has been a great support, but the altitude of Tibet's vast plateau is a stress to Chinese air superiority and limits their operational capacity.
As the decades had gone on the militarized zone's priorities has turned from a region for unit combat duty, into training for fresh soldiers to receive fresh exercise it an extreme part of China. “I feel most of the time I am a headmaster for students more than soldiers.” Quan Yu said, tired, “Perhaps in my retirement I will go into teaching, I have many years of experience.”
“I wouldn't say it hasn't be worthless.”
“No, of course not. Never has been. After the War it's been a break. But I feel our importance has been waning in the weeks and months. I'd be prepared to fight to keep material interest on us. Otherwise it will slip into becoming a pariah for something else. The Commission is always in negotiation with other parties. The government is negotiating its policies. We're here to prevent banditry at the border. They won't notice until it spills over.”
“I wonder if we can push the war to conclusion.” Feng Lu said, “From my experiences in Hotan.”
“Yes,” general Yu said, “If you have the chance. General Feng Lu and his goat army march on Lhasa! That would be a headline. You will complete the struggle of several commands before you. Comrade Enlai would probably find it very funny, and very smart.”
The morning began as all others had. The bells rang and the horns opened in the tremendously low hours of the morning echoing across the deep valleys. A city at sleep curling up out of their beds under the still blue light of morning before the first hot rays of the sun could break over the ramparts of the Himalayas. Through the window the young boy could gaze out through the imported curtains at the still dark sky, just becoming illuminated by the first thin bars of blue morning light. The air was cold, and so was the sky. In the thing clouds that existed at these heights only the barest inflection of color could be seen in their long silvery bands. Orange, as in the robes of the monk. Soon the morning chants and recitations would begin, two hours before breakfast would be served. The youth protested silently to himself before leaving the bed. He had only on his mind sleep, the passion to return to the realm of the dreams where he had his freedom. Damn the rinpoches, the diamond could use some sleep for once.
But damn the liberty, as he turned from the windows his room was soon stormed by a squadron of attendants, who bowing delicately and apologizing profusely began to manhandle the young lad, pulling him from bed and forcing him into his monk's attire. He moved with them automatically, as if a robot and simply obliged their respectful demands. They may have touched him, it would have been the same effect, but he was carried down the halls of the Potala Palace and through its lacquer stench of yak butter and candle smoke to preside over the morning prayers. Where from route memory he chanted out the dharma and the sutras in daily ritual as the son peaked over the mountains and casting low fire rods up from over the peaks of the Tibetan mountains. Such is the morning of the 15th Dalai Lama.
For two hours he sat on a cushioned chair above the other monks and the faithful in the hallowed halls of the Potala Palace droning out the sacred texts from memory. In the corners monks beat on drums, gongs, and cymbals creating an atonal symphony joined in by the low bleeting farts of horns and the gut-low gurgling of the monks and they recited the prayers for Lhasa, for Tibet, for the world that morning. Beseeching ancient gods who lives in the deep valleys and dark caverns all throughout Tibet. For the dead picked up by the vultures on frozen wingtips to be carried to heaven and devoured. At its peak the young Dalai Lama gave one of the few offerings he had the power to make in these times, that the Chinese be kept away for another day. And perhaps someone was listening, because for every day since the prayers began the Chinese had not come.
By the time the prayers were finished the sun was well into the sky. The morning light had lifted and the sky was open in its vast clear blue. High into the peaks the thinness of heaven was revealed under a dark blue as intimidating as the great seas below, as if any on this plateau has been down to see the sea.
Breakfast began on a terrace. Accompanied by a few other monks the Dalai Lama sat at a simple wooden table drinking down a brothy soup with vegetables and yak meat. A pot of butter tea in the middle. Surrounding him and sharing from the same common bowls were other monks, all far older than him talking in hushed voices about all manners of things. A pair at the end was locked in a debate about the nature of reincarnation. The young Dalai Lama simply found himself adrift in the normality, his mind empty as he struggled to pretend his belly was full. But looking up out of the corner of his eyes, he saw them.
At a distance in the shade of a doorway seated at a small table of their own were the Britons. Their heads bowed low in secret concourse and their backs arched primitive over their bowl of stewed meat and vegetables. Somehow one of them had brought in cheese. They did not drink tea, but coffee. They wore over their olive green uniforms the robes of monks. Through their conspiracies of Albion they had made their way into the palace and set themselves up as monks before the Dalai Lama had arrived. Or at least, that is how they carried themselves: as monks, rinpoches of the highest order. With their thick moustaches which they never shaved they looked over at the Dalai Lama with eyes always squinted tight against the harsh glare of the high mountain sun. One of them had a cigarette. The Dalai Lama was powerless to stop them.
Watching them, the Dalai Lama noticed as one of them rose from their table as a high-ranking monk approached them. One of the regency council. The arriving monk bowed and engaged in gregarious conversation and joined them at their seat as the one who had just left stepped towards the Dalai Lama. Coming before the table the British man bowed low, and said in Tibetan highly inflected by his accent, “I hope his holiness is having a splendid morning. I wish to extend an invitation by his holiness's regency council that he may join us later this afternoon in a review of the troops. His presence and participation will be highly esteemed.”
He would have had rather do anything else. But in the end like many things he would doubtlessly end up there. He accepted the quest, and the Briton gave him a long smile and backed away.
As breakfast closed the Dalai Lama was again shuffled away to another duty or obligation. In a musty hall he was obliged to sit in on a debate between two monks. Ceremonially, he was there to moderate. In practice, it was for him to learn. Not yet into his majority, he could not assume the duties of his position. But in the moment, his heart and mind were not in it. Trying to pay attention, he could not and his mind was set adrift. As the talk and excited retorts of the two monks broiled, punctuated by the loud claps that accentuated Tibetan debate the Dalai Lama went to think about the English. Their guns and weapons they had brought with them south from India. He was not allowed to be privy to the circumstances why. The regency council that surrounded him kept that a strictly confidential matter. But in his young years in the palaces of Tibet he learned to find a way to learn. Even as he was drowned in meaningless obligations and duties.
From what he heard, the British officers had first come north under the waning influence of the Russians. Those far northern men had retreated back to whatever land they had rode from beyond China. He thought they were like Mongols. They could be. He had never seen a Russian before, let alone a Mongolian. But others side they were European, they were like the British. But far ruder. So he had to let that be the reality.
Despite their origins however, the English were here. And has tensions flared into war in India, the consul they established in Tibet did not leave. If anything, it dug in deeper. And through the influences of these high majors tucked away at the roof of the world their weapons and wealth and influence came north. To what end the Dalai Lama could not grasp. But throughout his life they had been doing it. The debate closed, and he was again taken away. To review the troops.
Leaving the palace for the first time that day he traveled out of Lhasa born in a litter. Secluded in his canopy he rode on his cushioned chair. The coach rocked gently back and forth on the shoulders of the monks bearing him. Looking discreetly out the curtained windows he looked down at the faithful who lined the streets to bow and pray to his holiness passing before them. Surrendered to never knowing his face, they kept their heads bowed. Some prostrated on the ground, planting their faces in the dirt as they held their hands before them, palms pressed together. In their poverty they prayed for wealth to his Holiness and the continuation of the peace of the city. But he knew, what little he did know, that was only where the peace was: in the city.
Leaving the city he opened the curtains wider to get a fuller look at the world outside. The liter was born across a small canal cut through the rocky soil. Here the city of Lhasa began to thin as they made their way north. The roads became less paved, less packed gravel and more soft free sand. Ranges for yaks and goat, and fields of barley. Turning his head out into the cold late morning light he looked ahead. Looming atop a small hill in the distance was the fort of Drapchi. Its old walls white washed and shining in the light of the day.
Rising up the road to the fort, the soldiers exercising in the field stopped what it was they were doing to run to the side of the procession and to begin to pray and cheer the Dalai Lama. But it wasn't all of them, the young boy noticed. His gaze was pulled up by the yet still more distant soldiers that simply stood watching him go by. He wondered at their loyalties. He entered into the fort, and lost sight of them.
Passing immediately into the inner courtyard of the fort he was brought to a space along the side of the dusty barren parade ground where there stood a small group of officers with their hands behind their back. They looked up to see who was arriving, and immediately dropped to bow to the arriving Dalai Lama. An attendant with an umbrella was quick to appear as the liter was lowered and the Dalai Lama was shielded from the sun as he stepped out. Cold footed and nervous he looked up at his military officers and quietly greeted them with a blessing. Each of them returned the favor with a quick, quiet, “Thank you”.
The assembled officer corp was mixed. Only two bore striking European features. The other ten were mid-level officers of some degree but Tibetan or Nepalese. They all wore the same uniform, a light cream field jacket with belt. Distinguishing them from the general enlisted all of them wore slouch hats in the English style, though the brims wore flat and lowered to protect their eyes from the sun. Some even wide brimmed pith helmets, with a length of long corded yellow cloth.
“The regimental inspection will begin in just several minutes.” an officer said congenially, “If his holiness would not mind waiting.”
He thought to say he did mind waiting, and if they could begin now. But resigned, he knew what the situation was. “I understand.” he said, “May I wait in the shade?” he asked, looking across to a shaded arcade against the far wall.
The officer smiled, and nodded. He had his permission. Turning on his heels the youth ran to the shade of the gallery. The attendant running after to keep up. Several of the monks followed. But the rest lingered. “Your holiness, why do you run?” asked the attendant. The Dalai Lama did not answer. Stopping in the shade behind a pillar he turned to watch.
Minutes however passed, and little happened. The time lengthened and impatiently the Dalai Lama waited. “Several minutes” turned to several hours before finely a lone brass horn blew and a corp of senior officials began to walk out on the parade ground. Finely dressed military men in uniforms of the European style. Tibetan ministers in robes and dress like that of the old Chinese court. Seeing them the Dalai Lama thought, as he often did of the story he heard of Puyi. The fated last Emperor of China and how like he he was only a boy Emperor when he was deposed of the throne. This also was not a story many in his circles wanted him to know. But their silence was suspicious as he learned the story in pieces and seeing the powerful men with their swords hanging at their side he could not help but be afraid. The attendant who was with him, a young lieutenant not much older than he caught his look of freight and asked him, his voice heavy with concern, “What is wrong?”
The Dalai Lama realized fast he had shown something, and recoiled. As quickly as he could throwing on the mask of stoic ironic detachment he was meant to wear where ever he was. “Nothing. It is nothing.”
“I am sorry, but you looked afraid. Is something the matter?” he asked.
“No. Nothing is wrong.” he lied.
“I ask because you look worried. That is all.”
“No. I'm fine.”
The lieutenant nodded. His expression glowed with respect. Looking back up at the men now taking the field he said in a low voice, “Sometimes I wonder about them too. The British. I don't know what country it is they come from but I wish they would go back.”
The Dalai Lama said nothing in response. He only noted it.
As they took their positions a single bugle call was made, followed by the sound of marching drums as a band sprung to life somewhere in the fort. In a distant corner the Dalai Lama could make out a column of soldiers marching out from a distant barracks. Their faces fresh and ready. Rifles at their shoulders. Or muskets. Some had muskets.
The prodigal son had returned and the community came out to celebrate him. In a clearing along the side of the Liwu river the people had come down from the mountain villages and along the coasts to celebrate the return of their war hero. He had not just come home with honors, but had come home a man. By proximity, he had made himself not just a man, but his brothers too who may not have the same fortunes to go to war. Still dressed in his Imperial Japanese Army uniform, Baay sat in the shade of a canvas tent as old men with the old tattoos on their faces quickly and haphazardly smeared a greasy paint over he and his brother's faces. Still hot to the touch, they could not help but laugh as globs of it got into their mouth. The elders making jokes as they went. Teasing them and telling them how much more painful it must be for them. The comment was not just sarcasm. The Japanese had long removed their right to tattoo their faces. Any of them who did would be outcast as the Yakuza on the imperial home islands. And only those who would dare to do so would have to hide in the mountains. And these boys had wishes and duties to perform. But these duties did not staunch the deep pain in their hearts for not joining in the tradition which was now dying. They hoped deep inside them that they could one day tattoo their faces and revive the tribe.
Standing just at the edge of the tent, their sister Sayta stood smiling. She joined in the fun making. Cracking comments and laughing along. No one brought up his service. It was not needed here, not yet. This was too good a moment. For the time being, all comments could be made to The Head.
The Head stood at a place of pride in the celebrations. Haphazardly kept preserved, it had been smuggled over from the East Indies by Baay to reach his home village in the mountains. The trip itself was a story as much its taking. Baay had found someone who was willing to transport the thing in a crate of fruits. It wallowed for several days in customs before being unceremoniously moved on when an associate of the shipper retrieved the box and removed the head. Dumping the fruits explaining they were spoiled. By which point the canvas sack the head was stored in was suspected on several occasions. “It is meat, for my dogs” the man is said to have explained. Or: “It is fish guts, for the pigs”. It had almost been intercepted, but eluded capture. And as well as a sign of Baay's martial ability sat now the grand guest of honor as a sign of his ingenuity and cunning.
The Head had belonged once to a Dutchman from Dutch Indonesia. As Baay explained it was simply a patrol they had encountered. A skirmish ensued and the Dutch were forced into retreat. Later, Baay crept out in the night with his knife to find the site of the battle. No one had yet arrived to retrieve the bodies. Perhaps he thought: they were forgotten. All the same in the deep darkness of the tropical night he found a corpse, and removed its head. He had known some officers to keep trophy heads for a time. It was not hard to keep it for a time saying he would sell it to such a trophy hunter. So when it missing, when he had mailed it; it was believed that is what had happened.
As the old men finished the freshly minted Atayal men stepped out into the afternoon sun beaming with confidence and the people applauded and celebrated. Someone had acquired wine, and the cups were flowing in celebration of the boys-turned-men's fortunes. Baay was not much older than twenty-one. His siblings: Yabis, 16; Taraw, 15; and Iban, 16. They all joined him in maturity. Sayta had not yet reached that point yet, but looked forward to the day she could leave the loom for good. She had not yet managed to master her weaving. But her grandmother told her every night she was close. She just needed to keep working.
But the art of weaving hurt her hands. Every night before she went to bed after a full day of doing her chores, studies, and weaving her hands ached and she felt her fingers were slowly curling like her grandmother's. She was barely older than sixteen. She wanted to leave the loom and see the world, or the island in full. She had been told by a distant uncle that so long as she spoke clean Japanese and kept her face free of markings then she could go about the island as she pleased. “But the others,” he added, referring to the old tribes of the island, “they will always know.”
She felt a pang of guilt though. The influence of the Japanese weighed heavily over the island and in these mountains it was more common to see people wearing the clothes of the Japanese. Only the older generations continued to wear the intricate patterned dresses and skirts of the Atayal. By comparison to the single color cloth of the Japanese they were much more fantastic. But they proved to be cumbersome and called one out in town.
Smaller than most, Sayta was easily lost in a crowd and soon after her brother's mock tattooing she was eventually lost to the celebration as the sun began to set. But by then the wine had flowed strong and many were too lost in their drunkenness and revelry to notice as she wandered off down river. Her brother, the war hero managed to see her slip off, and took advantage of the celebratory confusion to make himself scarce to follow his sister. He was joined by Iban, who went racing after, his flesh blushing from alcohol.
“Wait up!” Baay called out, stopping Sayta before she wandered off too far. She stopped, surprised, looking back, “Where you going?”
“Thought I'd head to the beach.” she said, “I was about done with the party.” she added, smiling weakly to try and hide the shame of having to admit it.
“I'm about done too. I don't think they'll notice.”
“What about m-me?” Iban added in, startling the two of them. It was clear he was drinking too much.
“Don't you think you should go home?” Sayta asked. Iban shook his head determined. “No.” he replied.
The two of them shrugged and walked away in silence. Iban staggering behind them. In the dusk the mountain valley was silent, save for the rolling to the Liwu river. Behind them the sound and music of the party carried on the gentle night air. A gentle coolness was falling over the island. The two of them walked in silence. Iban mumbled out a song. Now and then they would check on him, seeing him weave left and right on the mouth, routinely raising and lowering his head, “Feels like I'm swimming.” he said in a long droning voice.
“You may have drank too much. Careful you don't fall over.” Baay told him.
“'scuse me?” Iban mumbled.
The valley road was forested on either side of the small road. Barely large enough to support a car. But out here few vehicles traveled. The failing light was fast to turn to black under the protective awning of the trees. Behind the branches and leaves of saplings and bushes the water of the Liwu shone in bands of purple and orange. A few birds flew around. But in all the jungle was quiet.
The road opened up as they began to trek down the hill from the mountains and the trees cleared, opening up to the great coast and beach as it met the great Pacific beyond it. Looking at it, all of them knew somewhere on that inky black sea the Japanese navy patrolled and the entire arms of empire squirmed and throbbed with the aggression and blood lust that sustained it. Baay knew it to well. Sayta finally decided, she had to know.
“How was it?” she asked them as they walked down to the beach. Iban stopped somewhere up the path to urinate. The two were mostly alone.
For a long time Baay didn't answer. He starred down instead at the milky white sand. The beach glowed in the edging moonlight. “I can't wrap my head around it.” he said finally, “I went in expecting it would be horrible. But I don't feel anything.”
“You don't feel anything?” Satya asked.
Baay nodded, “Perhaps it was I just didn't see much fighting. A lot of the men that carried the assault were mainlanders. The rest of us from Taiwan took a backseat. We cleaned up what they left behind.”
“So, is the story of the head true?” doubtlessly, The Head was still being treated with honors. Last she had seen it, it was being served bowls and cups of wine and fruits. A veritable spread had appeared before it. Half the banquet had ended up somehow before its cushion and bed of flowers.
“No, that's true.” he said, “It was my only real action though. I think about it a lot.”
“So you do feel something?” she asked.
“I don't know.” shrugging.
“I always thought war would be a horrible thing,” Satya went on, “I hear so much about the scars and injuries. About what happened during the last uprising. The villages destroyed. But really, nothing?”
“I don't know if it's the Dutch or my fortune. But: nothing. It was mostly a lot of marching and cleaning. The worst thing was we did the cleaning for the Japanese, while they did the fighting. I feel lucky that I managed what I did.”
“Amazing. But, I'm just glad you're back and safe and sound.” Satya smiled
“I hope so. But I hear I could be called back at any time. So who knows.”
In the distance they heard a loud popping sound. They both managed to look up in time to see a shape darting across the darkening sky. Smoke and fire trailing from a wing before with a crash it landed and skipped across the ocean, shooting up silver spray as he lurched and lunged towards land. Satya's heart immediately froze. Baay was charged with an instinctive energy and he ran towards the crash.