The bodies of General Rowarl and Forne Rako are brought on board the RORR.




Hero's Welcome

Every available Haul filled the hangar of the RORR when the shuttle with the remains of General Rowarl touched down. The honor guard of 16 Haul took position around the stretcher, accompanied it through the ranks.

All the Haul stood at attention. «Hau,» boomed the cry from over 900 throats.

With steady steps, the soldiers led the fallen hero into the transporter.

A second stretcher left the shuttle with the motionless body of a Rabit in a space suit. Mud had formed puddles around it. Again, an honor guard of 16 Haul took position, again everyone stood at attention.


The Rabit on the stretcher would have been quite surprised of the reception if blind panic by the sight hadn't canceled out any rational thought.

Outside of the hangar, his stretcher hovered into an room while the guards stayed behind. A robot with many long arms unfolded like a hungry insect. The suit was cleaned and then peeled off the Rabit with quick movements. The catheters were removed along with his space underwear. A shower robot picked the limp body up, cleaned it thoroughly before pulling fresh boxers on it and laying it back on a fresh stretcher.

As the body left through the door, force fields came online, microwaves and gushes of liquid cleaned every surface, every nook and cranny until the room was spotless and decontaminated once more. Since that had been the last of the Rabit pilots, the robot folded its long limbs into the parking position and deactivated itself.

Outside, the honor guard took position once more and led the stretcher to its final destination, a large, winding room. From all the walls, beds were protruding like tongues. In almost every bed lay a motionless Rabit. Only a few Rabit were awake and watched the procession warily.

The honor guard stopped next to an empty bed. Two Haul picked the body up meticulously and put it into the bed. After they had returned to their positions, the 16 Haul turned on the spot and marched off.

A few minutes after the Haul had left, the conscious Rabit came closer. «Unconscious,» noted one of them after he had touched the newcomer between his legs to check the pulse. They watched him curiously because every other pilot had been brought by a robot. Especially the flash flame-pattern on the ears on green and violet cause several snide remarks. «Vain fop. Takes a few hours off to dye his ears before he goes to war,» one of them commented. «Pff,» sniffed another. «He probably thought to be too pretty to be caught.»

«Or maybe he believes the Haul think he's poisonous with green ears.»

«What do you think why he came in so late?»

«Who knows? Maybe they turned him into a traitor? Or planted something under his fur.»

«Or maybe he put up so much resistance that it impressed the Haul one dared to mention.

«Rubbish,» he was scolded immediately. «We all saw how the Haul shot anyone on the spot of even thought of resisting.»

There was an awkward pause while they suddenly realised the other Rabit would despise them for cowards as soon as they would wake up.

«If we weren't awake,» one finally broke the silence, «no one would know what happened.»

«Exactly.» «Quite right.» «Absolutely.»

«He could be a spy. He's easy to track with ears like that.»

«Or he made a deal with these monsters and asked them to stun him as well so no one would notice.»

«Do you think he's the traitor?»

Angry stares bore down on the unconscious man in the bed. «No idea. Maybe. Let's wait; when the others wake up, someone might know him. He can't hide with ears like that.»

«Unless he showers the color off.»

One grabbed an ear, licked a finger and rubbed the fur. «Doesn't come off easily. That will take a while.»

Like all the others, the Rabit didn't respond to any attempt to wake him. Therefore, the group left him alone after a while and retreated into the depths of the room to a place where they could keep an eye on the door and had some cover at the same time.


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