Excerpt From Chapter One of Dragon's Fury - Eagle's Talons
Volume V in the Dragon's Fury Series by JeffHead
Copyright 2004 by Jeff Head, All rights reserved

May 23, 2010, 23:32 local time
Inside the main cave
Muri Redoubt
Central Cape York Peninsula

It had been seven months since the small group of Muris led by Nabalco and his wife Ulura had come to this spot from the Gregory Mountains and hidden. The twenty-seven people of his company had swelled to over forty in that time and it had not been without severe troubles and difficulties.

As he had foreseen, back in the fall, the fighting between the western forces led by the Americans against the Chinese, Indian and Muslim forces that had occupied Australia had spread to the northwest and overrun the Gregory Mountains. The very spot the clan had been using for sanctuary during much of the war had been engulfed as the enemy occupation forces and their civilian populations had been set upon by the allied military. In fact, several terrible pitched battles had occurred throughout the Gregory Mountains as the western allies slowly pushed the Asian forces back in that area.

"We would have all either died or been captured and mistreated by the Chinese and Indians had we stayed," Nabalco thought as he reflected on all that had occurred.

As a leader in the clan and as a "dreamer", he had experienced several visions regarding his people. Invariably, when he had these very vivid experiences, the dreams came true, and what they were experiencing now was no exception. He had seen the battles spread to engulf the Gregory Mountains rendering their former hiding places unsafe. He had urged the clan to split up into much smaller groups and move to safety in the north, each group moving toward small enclaves that had already been prepared and to which routes of escape had already been planned.

Although all of the groups had moved, six of them had elected to do so together, hoping to find another larger hiding place somewhere in the wilds of the Cape York peninsula.

That particular effort had failed and led to disaster.

As the Chinese and Indians were pushed back, a substantial portion of them were cut off by the American, Australian and other western allies' advance. Over 250,000 enemy troops and almost as many Asian civilians who had been brought in to settle this portion of Australia but who were now escaping to the west had become bottled up just north of the Gregory Mountains. Just as the Muris had done before them, they began moving further north in the hopes of escaping destruction. Their commanders hoped to come under protective umbrella of Indian and Chinese air cover on the northern half of the peninsula as they came closer to their bases in New Guinea and on the islands to the north of Australia that they still controlled. They hoped to either be reinforced and start an offensive against the Americans' flank…or to be evacuated.

As this large force moved to the north through the lands the Muri had fled to, they had discovered the larger grouping of Muris and slaughtered most of them, taking the survivors captive and forcing them to toil mercilessly for them as they moved to the north.

The western allies were not taking the presence of this large enemy force on their flank lightly. Nabalco thanked the heavens that his clan was not in the path of the Asians. The Americans were bombing them and hounding them relentlessly…wanting to force them to surrender or to annihilate them in order to remove the threat. Any thing close to the Chinese or Indian forces was apt to draw the advanced missiles from which the Americans produced their Hail Storms, or to draw fire from their other precision weaponry.

Despite that precision, if you were an aborigine or other refugee in hiding near an enemy camp and they moved in your direction, those weapons …or those of the enemy…would not distinguish between you and the intended target.

The Cape York peninsula had thus turned into a major battlefield in the war and many of the Muris had been forced to flee their smaller sanctuaries in order to get out of the way of the fighting when they could…and to inflict casualties on the enemy when they could not in an effort to separate themselves or do as much damage as possible before dying or being captured.

Some had found other safe places or joined with other groups who already had. That is why Nabalco's group had grown to its current size, and this was a concern for Nabalco. Educated in engineering and having been fully integrated into the Australian society before the war, Nabalco understood the capabilities of modern military forces. He knew that the larger his group became, the more likely they would be discovered.

As he contemplated these issues, he noticed that "Tex", one of the original non-aborigine refugees his group had taken with them away from the Gregory Mountains, had hobbled across the cavern to the small fire and sat next to it.

"Tex, isn’t it a little late for you this evening? Don’t you have watch very early in the morning" Nabalco asked.

Tex turned to look at Nabalco. His understanding and his ability to communicate and move about had improved dramatically over the last four or five months. When he had first come to the clan he could barely speak intelligently, and he could hardly walk due to the stiffness in, and damage to his left leg in the knee and ankle, and because he was missing half of his foot on that leg. In addition, his right hand was horribly misshapen, the thumb having somehow healed completely out of joint while the index finger had clearly been badly broken and then healed that way too. Several times during their escape deeper into the Cape York peninsula, Tex had literally had to be carried to where they were going.

But, as time passed, particularly in the first two relatively peaceful months, understanding began creeping back into his mind and his vocabulary and his pronunciation improved. This led to the reason he was called "Tex" by the members of the group. He had a distinct Texas accent, and because he could not remember who he was, the name had been a natural.

Ulura had looked closely at Tex's leg, foot and hand. She had some skill in medical treatment and there were others amongst the group who could help. The injuries had looked to be no more than two years old. For the missing portions of the foot, there was nothing that could be done. Heating and soaking the joints in the leg, soaked in various herbal potions, and then exercising them, had eased the stiffness somewhat in Tex's walking, but his movement was still labored and, depending on the terrain, certainly not sure.

They had faired better with the right hand.

After closely examining it and with the concurrence of a former emergency medical technician who was a part of the group, they had re-broken the index finger and reset it. It appeared to be healing nicely. The ligaments and tendons around the thumb had already healed in the out of joint position before Tex came to them, so getting it back into joint had been very difficult. Eventually, through therapy and through staged pressure the thumb had been coaxed back into its normal place, but it was unlikely that he would ever have full use of it. The best that could be said was that it at least could function in a partially normal fashion.

Amidst all of this Nabalco had been impressed with the attitude and drive of this young man. He was clearly not Australian, but he had been raised well. He wanted to carry his own weight and he had volunteered, as soon as he was able to communicate it and physically handle it, to begin doing work around the camp, up to and including taking his turn on watch near camp.

"Mr. Nabalco sir, I've already slept four hours this evening and my dreams were troubled…so I got up to tend the fire before going out to look at the stars before my watch."

Nabalco considered the young man's words…and he was a young man, probably in his early to mid twenties…and asked him about his dreams.

"Tex, what troubled you about your dreams. Tell me what you experienced."

A look of frustration crossed Tex's face and he looked down at the dirt floor of the cave before responding.

"That's just it…I can’t remember my dreams any more than I can remember anything about myself. They were just troubling."

As Tex stopped speaking and tossed small twigs into the fire, Nabalco considered his comments. It was not unusual for an individual to forget their dreams, but this young man was troubled by so many things…his injuries, the current circumstances, his identity and origins…he certainly didn’t need more weighing him down.

As he got up and approached Tex, and as he considered his own thoughts, Nabalco decided that they both could benefit from the night air and clear skies. "Well, Tex, why don’t we both walk out under the stars now…perhaps we can find some form of answer or comfort for you…and for me too."

May 24, 2010, 00:07 local time
Outside the main cave
Muri Redoubt
Central Cape York Peninsula

The stars were beautiful as Nabalco and Tex sat near a cliff and looked into the night sky. The air was clear, only a few clouds drifted overhead. The major fighting was seventy miles or more away to the east. Distant flashes could be seen along the horizon in that direction from time to time, but they did not disturb the solitude or the brightness of the stars there where Nabalco sat with his refugee friend.

They had been watching the night sky for twenty minutes and Nabalco was content to let the young man quietly look at the stars and use the quiet, the beauty, and the majesty to help heal his immediate worries. He knew it was good medicine for the soul. Nabalco was applying the same medication, meditating with the backdrop of that majesty providing the foundation for deeper thoughts, and hopefully enlightenment.

As they watched, Nabalco heard Tex begin to hum a tune to himself. Nabalco had never heard Tex hum it before, and did not recognize it.

"What's that song you're humming Tex?" he asked in a whisper.

For a moment Nabalco was sorry he had asked because Tex immediately stopped and did not answer right away.

"I don’t know, sir. It just came to my mind. I think I can remember a few of the words…something like,"

"Oh the stars shine bright, each and every night …"

Suddenly, far to the south, but well above the horizon, a tremendously bright flash lit up the sky. Both Tex and Nabalco averted their eyes from the brief intensity, which cast shadows across the landscape.

It was followed by other similar flashes and stabs of red and blue light…crossing each other…reaching out. Interspersed in the beams were what appeared to be smaller lights moving with great speed, also crossing each other's path. Deep rumbling sounds like thunder soon began to be heard coming from the cloudless sky to the south, forming a continual backdrop to the light show going on above.

The display went on for some moments. Both men…along with millions of others across Australia…were captivated by it. On several occasions there were clear detonations, brief flashes of bright light mixed with orange and reddish hues. These flashes were not as bright as the initial, larger flashes, but clearly they told of man-made objects meeting very violent ends.

Finally, there were less and less stabbing beams of light and detonations. Just as it seemed that the display was over, there was one final detonation. Not one of the larger, extremely intense flashes that had occurred early on, but still the largest of the smaller detonations they had seen thus far.

And this one did not go out. It remained visible as it moved across the sky, finally appearing to catch fire as it arced over towards earth…leaving the unmistakable tract of a larger object entering earth's atmosphere and breaking up as it did so.

"This is not good news I fear," said Nabalco.

He had heard stories of the American exploits in space. From his infrequent communications regarding news reports on the progress of the war, to stories told by passing refugees or allied scouts, he had heard of America's success in launch of two space stations into orbit. One of those, the Southern Star he believed they called it, was over Australia. There had been reports of the imminent launch of a third one over the Pacific Ocean.

"I am afraid we are witnessing war in space. Apparently the Chinese are attacking an American space station orbiting over Australia…and by the way those pieces are falling to earth, I am afraid they have succeeded.

"The way those pieces are falling to earth seems so familiar somehow."

Tex was watching in silence, listening to Nabalco. At the mention of the pieces falling to earth being familiar, a memory flashed into Tex's mind. It was just a brief thought and it was over quickly, but he remembered seeing the same type of thing himself…years earlier…and a name.

"Yea," he said slowly as the thought was verbalized, "It's just like the Discovery."

Nabalco quickly looked at Tex.

"Yes Tex, that's exactly it. It is just like the shuttle Discovery disaster. It's amazing that you remember that…can you remember any more?"

Sadly, Tex shook his head. It had just been a brief flash of a memory…outside watching the sky when it occurred. Just like tonight, but in the morning with…with…he just couldn’t remember who he had been with. But he did remember seeing those bright, fiery pieces entering the earth's atmosphere, just like these…except he was sure that there were a lot more pieces in this instance.

"No…no, I just remembered for a second seeing those pieces falling to earth while I was outside watching the stars. And the name….nothing more."