Saturday, March 4, 2017

Princess Tara Chronicles: Blue Tara; Or, How Is a Hyacinth Macaw Parrot Like a Tibetan Goddess?


Chapter Six
Part One

Tara piped up, "I want coffee." Michael almost fell out of his chair.

"If that doesn't take the cake," he said, righting himself. "Now I've heard everything.  Does she really drink coffee?" I nodded. "There's usually a coffee cart or two parked on Red Square during the day. You buying?"

"Yes, he's buying," Tara stated unequivocally.

We headed outside, Tara perched on my shoulder, Margarita sauntering along behind Michael. We found an espresso cart parked by the steps to Suzzallo Library, and got in line. Several students complimented me on Tara while we waited to be served by the barista, a tall attractive African woman wearing a bright red hijab, and speaking with a distinctly British accent. One or two of the students bent over to pet Margarita, who clearly enjoyed the attention.

As we waited in line a couple of Deportation Police goons wandered by, intently staring at the barista and the waiting line of students. The Deportation Police rarely showed themselves in public in Seattle but were becoming more evident as the Free Seattle movement took hold. They sported standard Deportation Police black. Black boots. Black pants. Black sweaters. Black wool caps. Black bulletproof vests. Black sunglasses. The only part of their getup not black were the words


ICE
POLICE

stamped on the back of their bulletproof vests in white print. The officers slowly walked along the line of students waiting for coffee. Several students decided to skip the coffee and leave. The others stared at the officers in a less than welcoming manner. The officers cut into the front of the line. One student shouted out, "Line forms in the rear!"

The larger of the two men, a husky bruiser with a Marine Corp haircut turned and walked back to the protesting student. "You got a problem?" he asked the kid. He probably outweighed the kid by a good hundred pounds. Michael turned toward the officer and repeated, "Line forms at the rear." Since we were the end of the line, he pointed behind us.

The other officer demanded that the barista show him her identification. The larger man walked up to Michael and said, "You looking for trouble?"

I interjected, "We're just looking for coffee, officer."

"What is this? Critter day on campus?" the cop retorted, noticing Tara on my shoulder. I could feel Tara's claws clamp down on my shoulder. Margarita hissed.

The first officer again demanded that the barista show him her papers. Several students suggested he leave her alone. Suddenly he reached across the espresso cart and grabbed the barista, pulling her across the cart while trying to rip off her hijab. The second officer grabbed my shoulder. Margarita hissed again and the officer kicked her, sending the cat flying several feet across the square. Michael screamed something obscene. Jumping back on her feet, Margarita let out an earsplitting howl and stood up on her hind legs. The black cat disappeared in a whirl of motion like a whirling dervish. I glimpsed what appeared to be a huge white claw slicing through the goon's neck. His head flew off his shoulders and rolled across the red brick pavement of Red Square. His body slowly toppled over as a stream of red blood gushed from his neck onto the red brick.

The other officer dropped the barista and reached for his weapon. Tara screeched. Suddenly a brilliant blue dervish rolled off my shoulder and jumped in front of the officer. I distinctly saw a flash of white steel and the second goon's head rolled onto the brick as his body toppled over almost in slow motion. I thought I heard people screaming and running.

Everything happened so fast it seemed like one of those bad dreams where hours of action are compressed into a few moments. I felt like I was suffering from shock. I couldn't believe what I had just witnessed. I pressed my hands against my ears and I squeezed my eyes shut.

I thought I heard someone ask if I wanted a coffee. Coffee? Surely I was dreaming. I hesitantly opened my eyes. The barista smiled at me with her dazzling ivory smile. "What can I get you?" she asked in her superiorly British accent. I glanced around. Tara sat perched on my shoulder. Margarita lay curled on the pavement, licking her fur. The only concession to what might just have happened, Michael stood behind me, pale as a ghost.

No bodies. No heads. No Deportation Police goons. No blood.

"What can I get you?" the barista asked again.

Getting our coffees, Michael and I walked over to a bench away in the corner of Red Square. Tara crawled down to my lap, dunked her beak in my coffee cup, and started drinking. Michael finally asked, "What. The. Fuck?"

"Tara?" I asked. Tara kept drinking. I finally took the cup away from her. "Tara?" I repeated.

"There were bodies without heads," Michael said. "And heads without bodies. I could have sworn!"

Tara finally responded. "I bent time and space so no one else could see what you saw. I disposed of the bodies. And the heads. The men were bad men. Agents of evil. I made them disappear."

"This can't be happening," Michael said.

"For all intents and purposes, I guess it didn't happen," I suggested. "Tara just disappeared the goons."

"Won't someone notice?" Michael asked.

"Most certainly," Tara responded. "But they will simply go missing, never to be found. Their bodies are shark bait out in the middle of the ocean."


Part Two

"Something tells me this isn't going to end well," Michael said. "We can't go knocking off federal agents and no one notice? Can we?"

"It has started," Tara said.

"What has started?" Michael asked.

"The beginning of the end. The culmination of the scheme the Winalagalis has put into action."

Margarita raised her head and added, "You have our protection."

"I don't know if I can handle this," Michael said.

"There's nothing for you to handle," I said to Michael. "Besides showing us where the turndun is. And where the Boas field notes are. It seems to me the Taras are plenty capable of taking care of the bodies."

"Well, I can certainly show you where the turndun is. But I have no idea where the Boas field notes are located. Somewhere inside the Special Collections room. But the feds aren't allowing anyone to look at them."

I got up and started walking across Red Square. "Where are you going?" Michael asked.

"The Burke Museum. You're going to show me where the turndun is stored."

The Burke Museum is located at the entrance to the University of Washington in a drab square gray concrete and glass building of a kind popular during the 1960s.

We entered the museum through the staff entrance at the back of the building, Tara perched on my shoulder, Michael cradling Margarita in his arms. The woman at the security checkpoint recognized us. I remembered her from a couple of my archaeology seminars some years back.

"Oh, how cute," she said. "What a pretty bird. We don't normally let people bring their pets into the building."

"It's okay," Michael said. "We're just going to be a minute. I lost my wallet," he lied. "I want to check the lab and see if I left it there." She buzzed us in.

We walked down the stairs into the basement and Michael unlocked the door to the lab. Inside, row upon row of floor to ceiling gleaming white steel cases filled the immense room.

"This is going to be easier than I thought," I told Michael. "You have the keys to the cases? I can stick the turndun under my jacket and we can just waltz out of here. They'd never notice."

"You might want to take a look up," Michael said. "Act casual." I glanced up. Security cameras covered the ceiling, literally a camera above each case.

"That's different," I said. "Weren't any cameras when I taught here."

"That's the least of it." Michael added. "Follow me."

We walked through the lab until we reached the back wall. There we found a steel vault built into the wall. Locked, of course.

"There's the turndun," Michael said, pointing at the vault. "The lab director has the only key. The director is required to be here with me any time I want to study it. And it's on his schedule, not mine."

"Looks like you need to schedule a visit," I told him. "And you'll have company."

"Please tell me he's not going to lose his head," Michael pleaded. "Otherwise I won't go through with this. He's actually a pretty nice guy."

I knew the director from my teaching days. "I don't think anyone will need to lose their heads over this, will they Tara?" Tara didn't respond. "You make the appointment Mike, and let me know so Tara and I can join you. Just don't tell him you'll have company."

"You never told me what you're going to do with the turndun. You're not going to damage it, are you? It's a priceless artifact."

"Are you kidding. This is me you're talking to. Tara just needs to use it to call the Garuda, to summon the other nineteen Taras."

"Garuda?"

"King of the Birds. Messenger of the Gods."

"Sorry I asked," Michael replied.

"We'll give it back to you, soon as Tara is done with it. Promise. Right? Tara?" Tara again refused to respond.

In Level C of the basement of the Henry M. Jackson Federal Building in downtown Seattle, a federal agent of the Department of Homeland Security, monitoring a bank of computer screens in a top secret and heavily fortified room filled wall to wall and floor to ceiling with computer consoles received an alert on one of his screens. He retrieved a video file from a security camera mounted above the U Dub's Red Square on the roof of the Suzzallo Library. He tapped his bluetooth com and hailed his supervisor. "Chief, you need to see this."

A gaunt, balding and wiry man wearing black pants, a white shirt with a pocket protector stuffed with pens, and a green visor like a blackjack dealer would wear, came to the agent's station.

"What you got, Agent Cooper?"

"Chief, we just lost Deportation Police Team Six."

"Lost? Did they sign off their shift?"

"No. I mean we lost them. They vanished. There's no signal from their beacons. And check out this security footage from Red Square."

Agent Cooper clicked the replay button on the video feed. The two Deportation Police agents could be seen walking across the square and coming up on the coffee cart. The video clearly showed one of the agents confronting the barista. The other agent could be seen interacting with a couple of adult men at the back of the line.

"What is that?" the chief asked. "Is that a parrot?"

Suddenly the video feed blurred. There seemed to be a glint of steel in the sunlight. The agents vanished.

"Get this video to Control right away Agent Cooper. I need to call Washington," the chief said.


Part Three

Once the world's largest office building, the Old Executive Office Building in the other Washington sits on the site of the original War/State/Navy Building. Built in grandiose French Second Empire style, the building epitomized America's original longing for empire in the heady years following the American Civil War, when there seemed to be no end to American expansionism. A radical departure from the neoclassical look of previous federal buildings, the Old Executive Office Building was universally scorned and ridiculed by the White House employees working there, so much so that the scorn and ridicule even drove the architect to suicide.

It seemed somewhat fitting that Control chose this building in which to set up shop. Simply put, Control did for the new regime exactly what the word implied. Control controlled. Control implemented the vision and dreams formulated for the regime by the Winalagalis. The various law enforcement agencies that existed before the regime, such as the FBI and the DEA, continued to function untethered from the niceties of constitutional restrictions. Control existed to ensure that nothing stood in the way of implementing the New American Order. Dear Leader represented the friendly face of the regime. Control contained the brains of the regime.

Control sequestered itself out of the light of day and attention in the highly secure and heavily guarded basement of the Old Executive Office Building. The chief of Control never went outside the facility into the streets of the city. He never left the confines of Control. Even Dear Leader came to Control whenever necessary to consult with its chief. His staff addressed him by his code name, Hamatsa.

A tall man with long disheveled black hair, the chief hid his scaly pale yellowish skin as much as possible under a leather coat and gloves which he constantly wore. The flickering lights of the computer monitors provided the only illumination within the chamber, but unintentionally highlighted his gleaming red eyes. He stood next to a computer monitor with his lieutenant, a tall svelte dark skinned muscular woman with a military bearing called Kinqalatlala. They kept replaying the same security camera video from the University of Washington's Red Square.

"It's Blue Tara. It has to be," Hamatsa said. "There's no other explanation why the two agents simply disappeared. And the cat must be Black Tara."

"Why Seattle?" Kinqalatlala asked. "Why now after all this time?"

"Blue Tara must be summoning the Taras. She must have found an instrument that will allow her to call her cohort together."

"To what end? And why Seattle?"

"Only one reason. To counter the Winalagalis before his power becomes unstoppable. Seattle must hold the key to her plans. There must be a reason she chose these men to help her. I want to know who they are and why she chose them. Especially the man with the parrot."

"Yes sir."

"Dispatch the furies. Instruct them to find these two men. Wherever these men are, Blue Tara will be close. Have the furies bring the man with the parrot to me. Alive."

"And the other?"

"He will be their reward. They can feast on him for all I care. And this talk of feasting is whetting my appetite. Bring me one of the undocumented so I may eat. Make it a female this time. Female meat is so much more succulent."

"Right away sir." Kinqalatlala smartly turned and practically ran out of the room. When Hamatsa demanded to be fed, his hunger needed to be placated as quickly as possible. For Hamatsa was a cannibal. Kinqalatlala was his slave. The victims Hamatsa devoured in turn became cannibals and zombies, themselves needing flesh to continue their existence in Hamatsa's service. Slowly and surely, victim by victim, meal by meal, Hamatsa built his own private army of cannibals and zombies. Soon his power would rival that of the Winalagalis. Kinqalatlala had no desire to fall victim to Hamatsa's hunger for flesh. She was perfectly happy to be the one to provide the meals. The new regime seemed to be blessed with an endless supply of flesh from the countless numbers of undocumented rounded up on a daily basis. She knew that one day even the Winalagalis would notice Hamatsa's hunger for power. And she would prefer not to pay the price.

After Kinqalatlala selected an appropriate victim from the holding cells adjacent to the Control facility, she unlocked an anteroom at the end of the hallway and flipped on the lights. A large wheeled steel cage stood alone in the center of the otherwise empty room, covered by a canvas tarp. She rolled the cage down the hallway to the freight elevator and took it up to the roof of the building.

Once on the roof, she pulled off the tarp, revealing four extremely large birds perched in the cage, the furies, a giant raven, a giant crane, and two condors.

"Greetings Qoaxqoaxual. Greetings Hoxhok. Greetings Gelogudzayae. Greetings Nenstalit." She bowed before each bird. She opened the door to the cage and the four furies hopped out onto the roof. Qoaxqoaxual, a giant raven. Feasted on the eyes of Hamatsa's victims. Hoxhok, a giant crane. Cracked open the skulls of his victims with his great beak and devoured their brains. Gelogudzayae and Nenstalit, feathered guard dogs and body guards, if guard dogs had the teeth and claws of grizzly bears.

This flock of feathered furies served Hamatsa as his eyes and ears, throughout his realm. No one could hide from them. No one escaped their notice. Kinqalatlala pointed westward toward the setting sun and said, "Go. Blue Tara has been spotted out in the west in a place called Seattle." The furies growled upon hearing Blue Tara's name and shook their wings. "You must find her and stop her before her power returns. Go. And remember. Bring the one with the parrot back to your master. Alive." The furies hissed. "The other you can do with as you wish. But beware the Taras. They are not to be trifled with. Combined, their powers are more formidable than you know. Go!" She pointed off again to the west. One by one the furies flapped their wings, took a couple of awkward steps, and took flight, clearing the building and banking toward the west as they took to chase the setting sun.

End of Chapter Six

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