Sequel to Treading Dangerous Ground
Some years ago, an event now called Hightower’s Betrayal ended the existing settlement of old world Native Americans on the obscure world of Atsileigh. But was Hightower the betrayer or the betrayed?
Floyd Jaxon, Nathan No Horses, and Jamison Hightower, nephew of the earlier Hightower, meet as cadets at the Unifleet Training base. They alternately razz each other and share in some steamy interludes as they are drawn into the growing plot to mark Hightower’s Betrayal with a return to Atsileigh.
Can their budding friendship withstand the dangers and demands they must face? Will Nate’s contempt for the Hightower name destroy any chances for a long term connection among them? The future looms ahead, filled with threat and promise. How the three young men grow to deal with it and each other will impact them all.
A sharp jab in the ribs spun Floyd around. He looked up into Nathan No Horses' grinning face. Mostly Comanche, a tribe with many tall members, Nate stood over six feet to Floyd's five-eight, so he had to look way up. They'd been teasing and flirting off and on since they arrived for basic training two months ago.
So far, Floyd hadn't quite decided if he liked it or not. Nate was good-looking, but he had an attitude that wouldn't quit. Despite that, he somehow managed to squeak by, not quite getting enough demerits to be ejected from basic training.
"Come on, Nate, give me a break. That hurt. Do you always have to be poking and picking at me? A person would think you were still in grade school. Grow up, man."
Nate deliberately ignored Floyd's comments. "You coming to the powwow tonight?"
Floyd shrugged. "Maybe, maybe not. It sounds to me like a good way to get in trouble. None of us need that, 'specially you. You're about five demerits from being sent back home with a BCD. I don't know about you, but for me, it's been a tough struggle to get here. Why throw it all away on some pointless, stupid protest?"
Nate's dark eyes flared with apparent rage. "There's nothing stupid about it. Because of Hightower's betrayal, my people were almost wiped out. I was born on Atsileigh. I barely remember it, but it was home. I lost my father, two uncles, cousins, and friends that day. And the only life we'd all known, too." He took a deep breath and let it out with a sharp puff, almost a snort. "We were rounded up, hauled off, and dumped on Corinth, that fuckin' shit pit. Well, we were just Indians -- and rogue-rebel no-account Indians at that -- so who gave a damn? But I want to go back. That planet was ours, and we'd earned the right to exist there, undisturbed, to follow the old ways and live as we were intended to live. There's a plan in the works to go back. That's what this is about."
Floyd shook his head. "No way, man. Why would I want to go live on some dead rock and exist like an animal, no running water, no air conditioning, no modern conveniences at all? It was bad enough being poor in town back on Earth, not even on the rez. Why do you think I signed up with the fleet?"
"It couldn't have been worse than life on Corinth. This was my ticket out of there, too, but I want more, freedom and ... oh hell, I'm wasting my breath talking to you. You might as well be white."
That stung. Floyd tossed his head. "I am not white. I'm as Indian as you are, Horseless. So what's the real story? Back home, I'd always heard Hightower was a hero. Folks said he didn't know what was going to happen that day. But here lately, some Indian cadets are talking like he sold out, as if he meant for the settlers on Atsi to be destroyed."
"He's no hero of mine," Nate muttered. "I know my father trusted him, but I think that was a mistake. My uncle didn't. He wanted to go represent our clan at the treaty talks so my father would be safe if anything went wrong, but Pops had to go. He was the head man, and he said he had to go. In the end, they were both killed, burned down at a feast that was supposed to be a joint celebration. We were too far away to get there in time when they called the people to come together to celebrate, or my mother and us kids would've died, too. Maybe we'd have been better off if we had."
Nate's vehemence surprised Floyd. He hadn't really known before that Nate was born on Atsileigh. Maybe he has a reason to be angry, and maybe everything I've heard about Hightower's wrong. "Okay, I'll prob'ly go to the powwow and hear what they have to say, but I sure hope we don't get caught and get demerits."
"It's a legal assembly. We can claim it's a religious holiday thing, and they won't dare make an issue of it. We'll have some drums and do a little dancing in the common room to make it look good. Might even have a little smoke or peyote, who knows?" He winked. "I'll make sure you get back to your barracks safely. It's going to be a nice night out. We could take the long way home."
The line began to move a little faster. Floyd turned around to move with it. He hadn't truly agreed to anything, but he'd go, just to satisfy his curiosity if nothing else. And he might allow Nate to walk him back, and even indulge in a little fraternization on the way.
Nate was a good-looking guy, and Floyd had been pretty circumspect the eight weeks he'd been here so far. I'm beginning to get horny. Maybe I'll find out if he walks the walk as well as he talks the talk. He grinned at the thought.