3 years before the Battle of Hatacu
T’bor was a lousy bodyguard T’lia realized as she ducked into the storefront bookstore. Stepping to one side, she peered through the dirty store window and observed the burly Enayan guard as he frantically looked around for his charge. His face, normally stoic was a mask of panic. Queen M’kia Zorren would not be happy if anything happened to her only daughter.
T’lia chuckled to herself and turned back to peruse her surroundings. Only fifteen years of age, she didn’t want to draw unwanted attention to herself by any inquisitive adults. To her relief the aged establishment was mostly empty. She took a quick count and numbered the patrons at five. Good enough. She only wanted a moment to look around without any supervision and perhaps find someone her own age to talk to.
She ran her hand along the spines of the dusty books on one shelf reading the titles, but saw nothing of interest. She sighed and walked deeper among the wooden shelves until she reached an open spaced reading area. Many of the tables were empty, but there were two customers reading books as well as an older woman pushing a squeaky cartload of books slowly in front of her.
T’lia ignored the employee and looked at the first customer, a man in business attire anxiously scanning a printout and comparing his findings with whatever was on his datapad. He looked quite nervous. Silly adults, thought T’lia. Always getting worked up over temporal things they have no control over. Even as heir to the Throne of Enaya, T’lia refused to take things so seriously that they affected her health.
The Princess turned her attention to the room’s final occupant and was surprised to see a girl about her own age. At least the girl looked to be in the area of fifteen. She was much shorter than T’lia, who was herself, almost two meters tall. Beyond that, the girl was thin, not in a malnourished way; T’lia could see the tone of her musculature through her fitted outfit. She was reading a book that looked to be as large as she was. T’lia smiled and trotted over.
She stopped before the table and waited. The girl did not even look up. T’lia smiled despite the fact that she was not accustomed to being ignored, especially not by a non-royal.
“Hi,” she said. “What are you reading?”
The girl looked up then and gave T’lia a once over, head to toe, no doubt noticing the peculiar Enayan ceremonial outfit. She frowned slightly and flipped a page in the large tome.
T’lia smiled despite the girl’s rude behavior and sat in the chair across from her.
“What kind of book?”
The mouse brown haired girl peered over the top of said book with a slight look of exasperation, which T’lia ignored.
“It’s a book on the Zhiacor training regimen.”
T’lia’s eyes grew wide.
“Truly?” She tapped her chest. “I want to be Zhiacor someday. Is that your wish as well?”
“I’m sorry,” the girl said as she laid the heavy book on the table. “Who are you exactly?”
T’lia reared up proudly, as was her regal upbringing.
“I am Princess T’lia Zorren of the Enayan Royal House. And you are?”
“Tona Acaria. House of Reggor.”
T’lia’s smile broadened, her dark features practically glowing.
“House of Reggor? So you are royalty too?”
The girl finally smiled as she leaned back in her chair.
“No, definitely not. Though Reggor really is my last name.”
“So you were teasing?’ T’lia said quietly.
The girl must have realized she’d touched a nerve, for she sat forward abruptly.
“I’m sorry. It’s a bad habit I picked up from my older brother.”
T’lia nodded in understanding.
“Is that him over there?”
Tona glanced over her shoulder at the nervous businessman and shook her head.
“No, my brother’s a Zhiacor ensign. He’d die if someone put him in a business suit.”
T’lia laughed and gestured towards the book.
“Are you following his path or your own?”
Tona looked thoughtful for just a second, but it passed.
“Definitely my own. I have a certain…goal I wish to accomplish that can only be done by joining the Zhiacor.”
“A goal,” T’lia said. “What? You want to assassinate someone?”
Tona looked surprised at the question, but answered immediately, softly.
“I really haven’t decided yet.”
T’lia looked suddenly serious.
“Tona Reggor, you are a curious girl indeed.”
“Thank you, I think,” Tona laughed. “So what brings an Enayan princess all the way to Toalavin? This is not exactly the grandest world in the Alliance.”
T’lia sighed. “My mother has business here. I’m supposed to be shopping with my bodyguard, but I wanted to do something without supervision for a change.”
Tona nodded. “I hear you. I’m waiting for Joran. That’s my brother. He’s having repairs done to his ship before we return home. He’s on leave for a month since his training is done.”
“I see. And where do you stay while he is away?”
“Boarding school. Or should I say boring school?”
“Aren’t they all boring?” T’lia quipped.
Both girls laughed which drew a sharp “Shh” from the man with the printout.
Tona rolled her eyes dramatically which caused T’lia to stifle yet another giggle.
“Well Tona Acaria of Reggor, it was nice to have met you. Perhaps we will cross paths again some time.”
Tona nodded once. “Maybe so. It was nice to have met you too.”
“Thanks” said T’lia. I suppose I had better find T’bor before he has a heart attack.”
Tona canted her head to one said questioningly.
“He’s my bodyguard,” T’lia said.
“Ahh,” Tona said in understanding as her chronocomm beeped once. She glanced at it.
“It’s my brother, which means it’s probably time for us to go. Come on, I’ll walk out with you.”
It took Tona and T’lia ten minutes to finally locate T’bor. The hapless bodyguard may have been more than two meters tall and 210 pounds of solid muscle, but he looked as terrified as a grassquiro facing a taral beast. She waved at him and he rushed over to her and bowed once, awkwardly.
“Highness,” he said out of breath. “I ask that you do no such thing again. The Queen would surely have my neck.”
“Sorry T’bor. I needed time alone.”
“With respect Highness, you are the sole heir to the Throne. Time alone is not really an option for you.”
“That’s my mother talking T’bor. I’m fifteen. Who would possibly be interested in me? You would do better to be on my mother’s guard detail.”
So into her conversation was she that T’lia did not notice the dark clad man until he was right behind T’bor. A flash of a blade and T’bor’s head was separated from his body.
T’lia recoiled and screamed, backing away even as her bodyguard’s form collapsed to the dirt. Tona stepped defiantly between the man and T’lia, but he merely shoved the teen out of his way. The Princess turned her attention to her bodyguard’s killer as the masked man twirled his deadly blade in slow circles. He advanced on her and T’lia turned to run, only to be thwarted as she ran literally into a second black clad man. This one covered her mouth to prevent anymore unwanted screams and began to drag her towards a waiting groundcar.
T’lia was not small in stature and she used her height to her advantage, struggling for all she was worth. She knew if she was put into that car, she might never see her mother again, or worse. She could be killed, thus ending the Enayan line. The man who had her in his grip was big, much taller and stronger than she, which made her believe he had to be of Enayan blood. So someone at home was behind this. T’lia struggled even harder.
The groundcar was less then four feet away when suddenly the man holding her yelped in pain. He released her and grasped at his leg from which protruded a wicked looking dagger. T’lia landed in the dirt as another form rushed to her side and bent down.
T’lia gaped incredulously up into the face of her new brown haired friend. Tona placed one hand on T’lia’s back.
“Stay down Zorren.”
Tona flicked her wrist downward and a small circular disc fell into her waiting palm. She pressed the red crystal at its center and two twin blades snapped into place and locked. She flung it at the man with the blade, who raised his weapon to deflect the seemingly inconsequential projectile.
The Firestar was not just a projectile however. It was designed to cut through almost any substance if wielded properly, and Tona was a master of it. The blades sliced through the attacker’s sword and ripped through his chest.
He fell backwards and Tona rushed forward to deliver a swift kick to the side of his head. The second assailant grabbed her in a bear hug from behind, but Tona merely reverse kicked his injured leg and he let her go, backpedalling in pain. Tona spun kicked him in the chest and he fell back against the groundcar. She was on him in an instant. Grabbing his head, she slammed it against the side of the armored vehicle, and he was out just like his partner.
Breathing heavily, Tona walked over to T’lia and helped her up.
“You ok Zorren?”
“Wh-Where did you learn to fight like that?” T’lia asked.
“Nevermind that. Are you ok?”
T’lia nodded once, though she was shaking uncontrollably.
“Hey, Tona soothed. “It’s alright now. You’re safe.”
They were interrupted as several Law enforcement vehicles arrived as well as a large skycar, which kicked up a cloud of dust as it descended. T’lia and Tona covered their faces against the onslaught, which quickly abated. A side hatch opened on the skycar and an imposing figure in a cowled robe disembarked and hastened towards them.
“Uh oh.” T’lia whispered.
“Let me guess,” Tona said. “Your mother?”
The Queen stopped before the pair and regarded them sternly.
T’lia bowed at the waist, stood and elbowed Tona in the side. The shorter woman followed her new friend’s example then straightened up.
“What has transpired daughter?” M’kia spoke to T’lia.
“It was an attempt to abduct me Mother.”
“I see,” said M’kia as she looked at the downed men. Her gaze then fell on Tona, who shifted uncomfortably.
“And who is this?”
“A friend. This is her handiwork.”
M’kia raised an eyebrow. “Indeed?” She regarded Tona again.
“You saved my daughter’s life?”
Tona shrugged. “I don’t know. I mean, I didn’t know their intentions. I just know T’lia needed help.”
“Princess T’lia,” M’kia corrected.
“Yes Ma’am. I mean yes, Your Highness.” Tona stammered.
M’kia smiled softly.
“You’re a little young to be such a warrior.”
“My father wanted to make certain I could defend myself.”
“And where is your father child?”
“He’s dead Highness. Killed at Dalason”
The Queen pursed her lips sympathetically.
“I see. Who oversees your upbringing?”
“My brother, Joran. I was on my way to meet him when all this happened.”
M’kia nodded. “I will send an escort to make certain you arrive safely to his location. P’orbin?
“Make certain Miss Reggor is reunited with her brother, then meet us at the ship.”
“Yes Your Highness.”
M’kia looked down at Tona once more.
“You have my gratitude Miss Reggor. Consider yourself ever honored in my land. Come along T’lia. We shall leave the authorities to their duties.”
T’lia looked at her mother’s retreating back and then shot a glance at Tona.
“I have to go. It was nice to meet you really. Thank you for coming after me.”
Tona nodded. “No problem. Let’s just say you owe me one.”
T’lia smiled. “Maybe we’ll see each other again someday.”
“Maybe,” said Tona. “But I don’t get to the Capitol World much. How will I find you?”
“I’ll be attending Grand Hirst Academy on Ranar.”
Tona smiled. “Another boarding school? Just what we need.”
“Truly,” T’lia laughed.
“Good luck to you Tona Reggor.”
“You too, T’lia. And try to stay out of trouble.”
“You do the same.”
Six weeks before the Battle of Hatacu
The prison shuttle set down on the tarmac, its repulsors sending dust in all directions. A small solitary bunker stood several yards away. As soon as the dust had settled somewhat a door opened on the bunker and two women emerged, walking through the haze. They reached the shuttle and waited patiently for the docking ramp to descend.
Servomotors finally activated and the ramp began its descent. It struck the ground and once it did, two men appeared followed by a young woman bound hands and ankles. Behind her came two more guards. One of the men walked up to the two women and saluted.
“General Amano, it’s good to see you again.”
The shorter of the two women returned the salute sharply before responding.
“As it is you Constable Tanero. What’ve you got for me today?”
Tanero glanced back briefly at the shackled young woman, then back to the General.
“Yrin Zaal, a small time thief we apprehended on Fliss.”
“Small time? the woman spoke. “It took your best men seven months to apprehend me.”
One of the two men flanking Yrin gave a sharp tug on her bonds, causing her to wince. She threw the guard in question a harsh glare. General Amano observed the scene with interest then looked at Tanero once more. the Constable’s attention had shifted to something just over Alicah’s shoulder. Montiesa was the General’s personal assistant and it had become somewhat of a standing joke between Alicah and herself that she continually upstaged her boss. This was no hard task, for Montiesa was by most men’s standards, stunning.
Even now, her silver dress was form fitting and adhered to every one of her curves perfectly. Her dark hair was short and trimmed stylishly at the neck. Her most exotic feature however were her silver eyes, something Alicah knew many men had never seen. The General cleared her throat softly and Tanero tore his attention away from Montiesa, his face reddening slightly.
“In any case, General, the judge in her case sentenced her to basic training and one tour of duty in the army.”
He handed Alicah a datapad. “Here is everything we know about her. She’s quite a handful. I hope you can tame her.”
Amano activated the pad and studied it quietly.
“I haven’t failed you yet Constable.” She smiled at him and he gave her one of his own.
“No you haven’t.” He signaled his men and they marched Zaal forward.
“She’s all yours.”
Alicah and Montiesa turned and headed back toward the bunker.
“Come along Miss Zaal.”
Tanero produced a key and removed his prisoner’s shackles. Turning, he and his men re-entered the shuttle.
Zaal stood there dumbfounded, her jet black hair whipping in the breeze.
“Are all of you crazy? I could escape right now.”
Tanero stopped and looked at her with a grin. He swept an arm around sharply.
“And go where? You’re on a military training moon. If I were you I’d follow the General, do your sentence, then think about escape, okay?”
Zaal moved to a safer distance as Tanero’s pilot fired up the shuttle’s engines. She looked again at the General’s retreating back, bit her lip then looked at Tanero once again.
“Okay, Constable,” she said coolly. “I’ll do this. But I won’t be here forever.”
Tanero nodded. “I’ll be waiting, but I do hope you’ll be a different person when I see you again.”
Yrin merely shook her head, turned and raced after the General.
“Glad you could join us Miss Zaal.”
Yrin looked around in awe at the pristine white walls of the military base. The bunker had been nothing of the sort. Instead it was a turbolift leading down to a very sophisticated training facility. She supposed she should not have been surprised. This was after all the primary training moon of the Ranar Alliance’s military force.
Still, seeing it in person was a different experience. She passed trainee quarters, several mess halls that were more plush than formal and several workout rooms. Noticeably absent were armories, though she had not expected to get that lucky. Finding powered weapons and attempting to shoot her way off the moon was probably not the best course of action. They’d only shoot down any ship she hijacked. No, it was wiser to bide her time and make an escape under more favorable conditions.
“How many soldiers are posted here?” she asked the General.
Amano and her silver clad assistant walked seemingly in synch, despite their height difference.
“Almost two hundred currently,” Amano answered. “Most of the personnel are trainees. We have six active squads in training, two of those are off on field assignments.”
“Yes,” said Amano. “Every platoon gets assigned an actual field assignment before they can graduate.”
Zaal snorted. “You put them in the field as their final test? What if they get killed before graduation?”
“That has only happened twice in ten years,” said Amano. “Neither of those deaths were on my watch.”
“There’s a first time for everything,” she said to Alicah’s back.
“Yes,” Alicah replied. “You’re right, but this is why we train Yrin.” Come on, I want to introduce you to the 128th.”
They entered a spacious gymnasium where a number of identically clad trainees were going through a variety of physical fitness regimens. amidst all of the noise someone sounded a shrill whistle and all training ceased. The sixty or so men and women formed up into several rows and came to attention. General Amano led her small contingent to within a few feet of the group and saluted.
“Stand at ease trainees.” The squad relaxed visibly as a tall stocky man approached Amano.
Alicah nodded at him.
“Good evening General Cavaness. I have a new recruit for you.”
“I’m not a recruit Sarge. I was forced to come here,” Zaal said.
“Hmm,” Cavaness observed. “Another mouthy one. Where do you find them Sir?”
“Tanero drops them on my doorstep. I bring them to you.”
Zaal placed her hands on her hips.
“Am I supposed to be amused? This whole operation is a joke.” She scanned the lineup of trainees with contempt.
“All of your rules and regulations are silly. No one here knows what it’s like to truly survive. I’ll bet I could put down any one of these trainees without even breaking a sweat.”
Amano smirked and raised an eyebrow at Cavaness.
“Very well, Yrin. I’ll give you that chance, but with two stipulations.”
“Name them.” snapped Zaal.
“If my trainee bests you, you will follow whatever regimen I assign to you, no questions, and no more insubordination. Agreed?”
“Sure General,” said Zaal. “Send your best though. I wouldn’t want to embarrass anyone.”
“Certainly,” said Alicah. She signaled to the group. “Trainee Reggor, step forward please.”
Zaal watched as a tall dark skinned woman moved out front. She considered briefly that Amano was not going to play fair, but the dark woman had only moved to make room for someone else, and Zaal smiled wickedly at Amano’s choice.
Tona Reggor was perhaps an inch taller than Zaal herself, but where Zaal was all muscle, Reggor was practically a twig. Her head was covered with a dirt brown mop and it framed a face that was neither beautiful nor ugly.
Zaal cracked her knuckles and smiled at Amano.
“This won’t take long.”
Amano ignored the remark and addressed her trainee.
“Tona, try not to break any of Miss Zaal’s bones please. We only have 8 weeks to get her ready as it is.”
The trainee nodded. “Yes Ma’am.”
Zaal didn’t wait for a formal start. She threw a solid punch toward Reggor’s face. In all of her eighteen years, Zaal had never seen anyone move so fast. The trainee caught her hand effortlessly then slammed a palm into Zaal’s nose. Reggor completed her action by shoving her opponent away.
Yrin felt something wet slide down her nostrils. Reaching up, she pulled her hand back to find it covered in blood. Snarling with rage, she raced forward furiously. The Trainee did not move until the last possible instant. She dropped to one knee and slammed a fist into Zaal’s midsection. Tona, then grabbed Yrin’s hair, placed a foot into her midsection and flipped the woman over her head. Zaal landed on her back on the wooden floor, and her breath expelled in a rush.
“That’s enough Tona. Return to formation please.”
Alicah walked over to Yrin and stooped down.
“Well Miss Zaal. Welcome to the 128th.”
Thirteen weeks before the Battle of Hatacu
Private (PFC) Wen walked beside Sergeant Shau Cavaness through the harsh white halls of the Carasia training base. Harsh was a generous term for it appeared every ounce of bleach in the galaxy had been used to clean the corridor. Dja’s eyes ached from the sight and he periodically shut them every few feet for seconds of relief. It was not enough, but it helped. His homeworld of Rusui was relatively gloomy much like Carasia during its rainy season but at least Carasia got to see its sun more than one month out of the year.
He hoped the Sergeant would get them to their destination soon, wherever that was. All Cavaness had told him was that he had been summoned for a conference. That could be good or bad. Good because Dja had been at the top of his class at the Alliance Academy and was already favored for command track. Bad because he’d gotten into a fistfight with another recruit just two hours after his arrival on Carasia. That recruit had had it coming. He’d badmouthed several less athletic recruits on the flight in, which was certain to cause them self esteem issues later.
Dja moved aside slightly as two trainees approached him. One, a fresh faced male, was openly flirting with the perspiration drenched female. The woman seemed oblivious to the male’s advances, looking straight ahead and never breaking stride. She carried a gym bag and what appeared to be a battle staff, though it was much shorter than ones Dja was used to. Both trainees seemed to realize simultaneously that they were in the presence of superiors. They stopped and saluted until Cavaness and Wen had passed them. Only then did the young man continue his flirtations. Dja smiled secretively. Some guys just did not know how to take no for an answer.
Cavaness finally halted in front of the one door Wen wished he had not; General Amano’s. The Sergeant hit the annunciator and a moment later Montiesa’s smooth soprano came over the comm.
Sergeant Cavaness and Trainee Wen to see the General.”
“Certainly,” Montiesa sang. “Come right in.”
The pair entered the spacious reception room where Montiesa was already coming around her desk to escort them.
“Right this way, gentlemen.”
She led them into Amano’s office, where the General was seated behind a large wooden desk lost in whatever was on her computer screen. Without looking up, she gestured at Wen.
“Have you told him Sergeant?”
“No General I haven’t. I thought I’d leave that to you.”
General Alicah Amano looked up and smiled softly. Her olive complexion was augmented by auburn hair that was just beginning to grey at her temples. She was not a stern looking woman, but exuded a soft femininity that had lulled more than a few enemies to underestimate her intelligence and combat abilities. She regarded Dja for a few moments then looked to Cavaness.
“Please wait in the reception area, Sergeant. I need to speak to Trainee Wen alone.”
Dja did his best to hide his fear as he looked helplessly after the departing Sergeant. Once the door had shut behind Cavaness, he continued to stand at attention, waiting for General Amano to declare her reason for wanting to meet with him. He did not have to wait long.
“Stand at ease Trainee. You aren’t being court-martialed.”
She stood and walked around her desk, crossing the room until she was face to face with him. Crossing her arms, she again examined Wen with her gaze, which though gentle felt like a thousand suns boring into him. Wen tried to concentrate on anything besides Amano’s scrutiny; The soft tan carpet beneath his boot heels; The large viewscreen on the wall showing the surface of Carasia, one mile above the actual training facility. None of that mattered, for after his reflections, he found he was still standing before General Amano, the leader of the entire Ranar Alliance Ground Force.
“Sergeant Cavaness says you were involved in an altercation with another trainee shortly after your arrival,” she said. “Can you tell me what happened?”
Dja felt a bead of sweat trickle down his back. Uncertain of what type of punishment his prior actions would bring, he chose his words carefully.
“Yes, Ma’am. A trainee by the name of Tabado was harassing some weaker recruits. I took it upon myself to stop him.”
“How so?” the General asked.
“We fought Ma’am.”
“I see,” said Amano. She walked back to her desk, sat down and picked up a datapad. After keying in several commands, she held the pad out to Dja. He stared at it blankly, not wanting to take it, certain it was a letter of dismissal. Amano pushed it towards him again, jolting him out of his reverie.
“Read this,” she commanded.
Dja reached out a cautious hand to take the pad from his Superior. The information it displayed was far worse than a mere letter of dismissal. It was a list of all the letters of recommendation he’d received prior to his being accepted into the trainee program. Topping the list was his father’s name, Pisek Wen.
Dja lowered his head and placed the pad on Amano’s desk.
“What happens now, General?”
Alicah sat back in her chair and gestured for Dja to have a seat across from her.
“Trainee Wen, you are being considered for a position in the 128th Battle group. The 128th is a special unit and is comprised of, among others, an Enayan princess, a level nine technical wizard and the daughter of one of the greatest weapons developers who ever lived. It was my personal decision to place you in that group because based on your letters of recommendation you seemed to fit the bill for what I thought makes this squad special.”
Dja shifted uncomfortably in his chair as Amano paused.
“However I will reconsider my decision if you cannot assure me here and now that you can control your emotions.”
It took every ounce of willpower for Wen not to appear nervous. He stood stock still, keeping his gaze focused on the spot just over General Amano’s shoulder. Certainly he could control his temper. It was just that Tabado had been railing on those recruits mercilessly and Wen hated bullies. But he hated living under his father’s shadow of accomplishments even more and was determined to forge his own path.
“Yes ma’am, I can control myself. I’m sorry if I gave the impression I could not. It won’t happen again”
Amano leaned back in her chair and steepled her fingers.
“Apology accepted Trainee. I expect you will keep your word. Now on to the real reason I asked you here.”
Wen was taken briefly aback.
Amano waved a hand dismissively.
“Don’t call me Ma’am. I hate that.”
“Yes m- I mean, yes General.”
“Trainee I have decided based on your high marks as a junior cadet to make you Squad leader of the 128th.”
Wen stood silent for several moments, certain he had heard the General incorrectly. A squad leader? Surely there were other more qualified candidates for the position. It was already rumored that the 128th were to be this year’s special missions unit. It was an honor to each person chosen to be a member. He looked at the General and cleared his throat.
“I don’t know what to say General.”
Alicah eyed him levelly.
“Trainee Wen, you need not say anything. Just don’t make me regret my choice.”
Alicah leaned back in her chair and swiveled until she was out of Wen’s view.
“Very well then. You’re dismissed.”
“Cari, could you hurry it up? We’re gonna be late!”
From the rear of Joran’s ship came his younger sister’s response.
“This is your mission, not mine. Hold your Cadelshes!”
Shortly, Joran heard footsteps in the corrider and a moment later his sister appeared in the hatch entrance. A dark smudge of some foreign substance streaked her face. Under the smudge, she was the very nearly the image of their mother. Olive skin underneath tousled dirt brown hair. The hair was the difference of course, for Acaria Reggor had been a natural vibrant blonde. His sister had inherited their father’s unruly mop, strands going everywhere and nowhere.
“What are you doing?” Joran asked.
Tona frowned in her usual fifteen year old defiance. “Didn’t I ask you not to call me Cari anymore? It’s weird.”
“Sorry kiddo. It’s a habit. You look just like her.”
Tona sighed softly and absently tapped the multitool against the left leg of her coverall.
“I…know that Joran.”
Joran swallowed once, reminded once more at how sensitive Tona had become after their parents were murdered six years earlier.
“I’m sorry.” he repeated. He glanced at the multitool and remembered why he’d called her.
“You didn’t answer my question. What were you doing?”
Tona’s grip tightened on the tool absently as if she’d forgotten she was holding it.
“Oh yeah, I was making sure the landing struts were secure. You had a coolant leak on the left rear shock. I’ fixed it and refilled the fluid.”
“The Zhiacor have mechanics for that Car- uh, Tona.”
“You’re welcome.” She said as she tossed the tool at him. “When are we leaving?”
“I was waiting for you,” Joran said with exasperation.
“She’s never on time,” came a disembodied voice.
Tona slapped one of the cockpit’s side panels.
“You keep out of this Finni.”
The ship’s AI made a rude sound. “You don’t tell me what to do, Ice. You are not the captain of this vessel.”
“I mean it Finni,” said Tona. I will shut you down.”
“No you won’t,” said Joran. “I need him to navigate.”
“I can navigate,” said Tona. “And I won’t be as annoying.”
“You’re annoying,” Finni offered.
“You’re annoying! Tona spat back.
“You’re both annoying! Joran raised his voice. “Now cut it out and let’s get to Ralea before I get court martialed.
Tona sighed again as she plopped down in the copilot’s chair.
“Do I have to go? I’d much rather stay here.”
“I told you, we are not going anywhere near Dalason. We’re picking up some dignitary and dropping him off on Genera Station. “
“You’re sure? I don’t know if I’m ready to see…to see our home.”
Joran reached over and gave his sister’s hand a soft squeeze.
“I promise. I can’t leave you here. Zalu is offworld or else you could stay with him. I don’t trust you to anyone else’s care. You know why.”
She did know why. They were all each other had. Joran was a newly minted Ensign in the Zhiacor Special Forces and it was bad enough that seven months a year he had to leave her in a boarding school, but in the off school season, her overprotective brother tended to travel with her aboard his ship. It was convenient because very few Zhiacor had their own ship and the Sonal had been officially designated a military transport. As a result, Joran was able to come and go as he pleased just as long as he understood that the Service came first.
Tona squeezed his hand in response and turned to the flight console to begin the startup sequence.
“Well let’s get going then,” she said. “The sooner we can get back here, the better.”
The Sonal set down gently on the rooftop landing pad. Such was Tona’s hand at piloting her brother’s ship. She was young, but was already well ahead of many her age in understanding technologies. She and her brother were the only offspring of the person many considered to be the greatest weapons designer in history. Nival Reggor had instructed his children in many things before his untimely death including the basics of piloting a ship. Tona had been a quick study in that and many other things her father had taught her. She had been closer to her dad than her mother and had practically been Nival’s shadow, much to her mother’s displeasure.
She flicked several switches and was rewarded by the sound of the ship’s engines going into standby mode. She turned to her brother and raised an eyebrow.
“So, who is this dignitary we’re supposed to meet up with?”
Joran held up a hand of caution. “I’m meeting this person. Not you.”
Tona frowned slightly. “So what am I supposed to do? Wait here with the blabcomp?”
Finny let loose with wait sounded like a mechanical sigh.
“I am not fond of being stuck here with you either.”
“You can come to town with me Tona. I can signal you when I’m done. There’re are lots of things you can do here that should keep your mind off of Dalason.”
She was quiet for several moments and in those moments, Joran thought bringing her here had been a mistake. That maybe she was not prepared to be this close to the site of her worst memory.
“The library still in town?” she asked finally.
“I believe so,” Joran replied.
“Then that’s where I’ll be,” she said. “Hit me up on my chronocomm when you’re ready to leave.”
Joran nodded. “I’ll do that.” He got up to head for the exit ramp.
“Keep out of trouble Cari.”
“Sorry. Habit,” he yelled back as he left the ship.
“I’ll be at the library. Activate all security systems and allow entry only for Joran and myself.”
“As you wish.”
“Really?” she queried as she watched her brother walk into view just outside the canopy. “No smart remarks this time?”
“If you like, I can rattle off a few, but you are really not worth the millisecond it will take to compile them.”
“Yeah, well your remember that, when you find your components up for sale at a back alley auction.”
The woman looked up as Joran entered the room, gave him a once over with her silver eyes, then returned her attention to the datapad she was holding.
“Ensign Reggor. You’ve grown since last I saw you.”
“Time has not stopped you from looking beautiful Montiesa.”
The woman smirked without raising her head.
“And you still are hopeless when it comes to flirting with women.”
“I’m not flirting with you M. I’m trying to express my undying love for you.”
“Well you’ve succeeded at one thing. You’re killing me.”
Montiesa raised a hand and waved in the direction of the chamber’s only other door.
“She’s waiting for you in there.”
Joran walked to the door and it slid aside to admit him.
The General of the entire Ranaran Alliance Army was on her knees peering under her desk with her posterior in the air and she started at the sound of the door’s motion, striking her head on the desk’s overhang.
She let out a grunt of pain as she stood, rubbing the back of her head.
“Joran. You’re early.”
“Yes Ma’am. My sister doesn’t believe hyperjump speed rules apply to her.”
“Is she a bad pilot?”
“I prefer not to eat before she flies if that answers your question.”
The General smiled warmly and walked over to give Joran a familiar hug.
“It’s good to see you Joran. Congratulations on your admission to the Zhiacor. I understand Senator Zalu was your sponsor?”
“Yes. He was quite impressed with my commitment in airlifting supplies to the survivors of the holocaust. And all while raising Tona. He was also more than happy to support the son of Nival Reggor”
The General nodded.
“Your family name is not one to be trifled with, which is why I made my request.”
She half leaned against the offending desk and crossed her arms.
“With your being Zhiacor now, I feel it would be a good idea to take some of the burden off of you as pertains to Tona’s care. You can’t take her on every mission and aside from boarding schools, she really has nowhere else to go.”
Joran sighed heavily.
“I just want to make sure she is safe Alicah. Tona thinks she can handle anything, but she’s still only fifteen. And I know she’s not invincible.”
“No, she’s not,” Alicah replied. Which is why I feel the army will be good for her. It will teach among other things that she is indeed human and not the super variety.”
“I agree,” said Joran. “But she is still three years away from being eligible, family name or not.”
Alicah ran a hand through her shoulder length auburn hair.
“I promise to give her the best care for the next three years. And most importantly, I will mentor her. She needs discipline from what I could ascertain from your letters.”
Joran laughed loudly at that.
“She certainly needs that,” he admitted. “She’s as stubborn as my father was. No one can ever say she is not his daughter.”
“I can shape that,” said Alicah. “Will you give me custody? You’ve known me for years and you know how much your family meant to me. The least I can do is safeguard Nival’s legacy.”
“I understand,” said Joran. “She does like you, and that’s saying a lot because she is not known for making friends. You have my blessing. Just keep her safe.”
“I will,” Alicah promised. “Now how do you think she will take the news?”
Tona looked back and forth between her brother and General Alicah Amano, seated across from her in the Sonal’s common area.
“So let me get this straight. You both want me to live on Carasia?”
“That’s right,” said Joran. The General and I have discussed this and I can no longer take you everywhere I go. The Zhiacor are demanding more of me and I can’t always be available to you. Alicah can.”
“So you’re pawning me off? My own brother is trying to get rid of me?”
“Tona-“ Joran began.
Alicah raised a hand and he stopped mid sentence.
“Tona, your father would not approve of this behaviour.”
The younger woman turned on the General.
“What do you know of what my father would approve of?” she spat.
“I know that your father was respectful of authority, which is more than I can say for you. You think that by lashing out at others who are trying to help you that you honor your father’s memory?”
Tona’s face was red and her eyes burned with barely contained fury, but she remained quiet.
“I knew your father well,” Alicah continued. “I was his liaison officer on one of his most classified projects and during that time, I learned that he loved his family, especially his children. I learned that he did everything for both of you. You lost a father. I lost a friend. I have days where I regret not being on Ralea when Dalason was attacked. I regret not being there to save your parents, but Nai Lamarco was not considered a threat by the Alliance until he attacked Ralea. The least I can do now is help the children of my friend. I am helping Joran by agreeing to help you. Now you may feel he is abandoning you, but he is actually saving you from worrying about a stable upbringing, which I am offering you. Do you understand?”
Tona looked at both of them again before settling on Alicah’s benevolent face.
“Do I have any say in this?”
Joran sighed. “Are we going to have to tie you down to cooperate with this option?”
“No,” said Tona. “I hate this idea with a passion, but if I am going to be subjected to it, I have one request.”
Alicah folded her hands in her lap as Joran tensed slightly.
“And that is?” said Alicah.
“I would like to attend Grand Hirst Academy on Ranar.”
Stay tuned for the entire trilogy highlighting the adventures of Tona Reggor and the 128th. Book One: Marching Orders will be posted on December 6th. Follow me on timellerbe.com and on Youtube (Timpris Music) for more of my creative endeavors. :)