The Hero From Meridell: Part Six
Also by bestpet21
The hurried flight to the space pod, the return to the space station, the landing and alighting was all a blur to Zamrin. He still couldn't believe his friend had been captured, and it was causing him to lose focus in everything he was doing. He had hardly made it back to the station safely, due to his clouded mind. Zamrin was sure he would get a heavy scolding from the Commander with his hot, burning eyes. He shuddered at the thought.
Rylar caught him just as he was exiting the pod, casting a stiff reprimanding glare at him the entire time the pod was slowly coming to a stop and docking next to the station. Zamrin endured it until he stood face to face with him just outside of the pod.
“What are you doing here? Where's the Eyrie?” He didn't sound happy. He really had no reason to be happy.
“I'm sorry, Sir. She got captured.”
Surprisingly, the Commander didn't appear to care. “And why are you here?”
“You were supposed to take out those leaders, or have you forgotten?”
Zamrin suddenly realized how stupid and cowardly his behavior must have seemed. Just because his friend was captured didn't mean he had to call off the entire mission. He was supposed to carry it out by himself in the first place. But at the time he wasn't thinking with his head. He had allowed his fear to take over, something a warrior was never supposed to do. Zamrin stared at the ground, ashamed. He had failed.
“I suppose I should call off the army?” Rylar said with noted frustration in his voice.
“Yes, Sir. We were not able to complete the mission as ordered. I'm sorry, Sir. This is inexcusable.”
Rylar didn't acknowledge the apology. He simply turned around and began strolling the other direction. Zamrin followed, not knowing what else to do. In about ten minutes the army had been told not to proceed as planned and a meeting had been called. All except the lowest-ranking soldiers were present. When everyone was informed of the situation, they were all to some degree astonished, disappointed, or amused by Zamrin's performance. The Kacheek took it all without looking up from the ground. He was too embarrassed to look anyone in the eye.
“He's not a real warrior,” he heard one red Scorchio whisper. “He's a coward. I always knew Rylar's spy was an idiot. He'd have to be to think this loser is a warrior.”
His friend, a green Bruce, only laughed hysterically in response. “Shhh... be quiet! You're going to get us both in trouble!” he whispered back between cackles.
Rylar cleared his throat loudly and with purpose. “Enough!” he shouted in no particular direction. Discussions like this were erupting all throughout the room. Immediately they ceased and every eye was facing him.
“At the moment, we are most concerned with how we are going to work around this problem and resume our attack on the territory. The whos and whats do not matter right now. We're already getting rumors that the Grundos are preparing their own attack on this station. We can't afford to have something such as this endangering the families and innocent civilians who live here. Not to mention all the tourists and visitors we have roaming the planetarium room even now.”
If it weren't for someone's accidentally dropping a toothpick and the minor Sneezles infection of another, the room would have been completely silent. Pleased with this, Rylar continued, “We are going to send in our army as planned, but we will double the force and equip most of you with the Z-9 blaster. You will be given an orientation on how to use this weapon immediately following this meeting. It's sturdy and durable and, most importantly, the Kreludans won't be expecting us to use it. It may not be quite as powerful as the X78, but the element of surprise is more important right now. Those of you who do not pick up on how to use the Z-9 effectively by the end of the orientation will be equipped with the standard X78. I expect this will apply to very few of you.” At this he cast his commanding gaze once more, and everyone decided now, if they hadn't felt the same way before, that they were very fast learners.
Zamrin grew upset when no mention was made of his friend. Weren't they going to make some sort of effort to rescue her? Although she would make a valuable addition to the army, Zamrin was most concerned for her safety. He hoped that the Grundo guards were treating her with at least some decency, but he couldn't say for sure if they were, and this angered him. He had no choice but to speak out of turn. “What about Kade?”
Rylar turned and saw Zamrin standing in front of him defiantly. “You don't honestly expect us to weaken our forces by attempting a silly rescue like that, do you?” The Commander made the idea sound almost childish.
“Aren't you the least bit concerned about her?”
“Why would I be? She's a soldier. I've seen many a soldier get captured, and if I was always acting to protect every one of them, I would never be in the position I'm in now.”
Zamrin didn't know how to answer. He was right, of course, but as a friend he cared more than Rylar ever would. Something had to be done. He just didn't know what. He stood in silence for several moments and then, seeing the futility of standing under Rylar's glare any longer, seated himself once more.
The Lupe cleared his throat and continued as if no interruption had been made. “Overall, it's a simple plan. Given more time, I would have constructed a better strategy, but we simply don't have that privilege at the moment. Each of you are expected to do your part, and to fight bravely, as you have been trained. If we let the Kreludans take this territory, they will feel that they are entitled to the whole moon and all of its resources. It will create quite a monopoly in the years to come, and furthermore, we have as much right to own the land as they do, and giving up now would be a stain on our reputation. It would jeopardize the whole mission and purpose of the Space Station. Are we going to let this happen?”
The soldiers erupted in a chorus of no, Sirs.
Rylar grinned with pleasure briefly and again gave the signal for everyone to be silent. “Good. Now, remember not to get overconfident. The Grundos have quite a few resources at their disposal, and they're going to use them. Be ready for anything and anyone.”
They all nodded with energy.
“You are dismissed. Orientation for the Z-9 blaster will be on Deck B.”
Zamrin assumed himself to be considered one of the soldiers and made his way to the deck, following the sea of soldiers. All of them were practically bouncing off the walls with a sort of rowdy rambunctiousness that was bound to be a liability in the fight, but none of them seemed to care. They poured into the orientation room as one unit, pleased to see that a young female Aisha with a pleasant voice was going to be giving the demonstration.
Immediately Zamrin saw why the Z-9 was not the preferred standard. It was big, bulky, and clearly outdated in comparison to what he had seen while on the station. The golden-hued Aisha pretended not to know or care that she was wielding a weapon that was behind by several decades. She spoke in a cheery, upbeat manner, as if war could be described by either of these adjectives, and took every pause for air as an opportunity to smile widely.
This didn't at all detract from the overall mood of the soldiers. If anything, it made them more noisy and unruly. The Aisha took it only as a sign of her own good spirits spreading throughout the room and continued throughout the whole orientation, never once stopping to be sure that everyone was listening. The truth was that they weren't.
Zamrin felt his mind wander as she spoke. He felt his cheeks flush bright red when he remembered his behavior only a few short minutes ago. But the more he thought about the Commander's response to his question, the more angry he grew. He couldn't just stand here and listen to instructions on how to use an old, clunky blaster in order to carry out a hastily-made plan that was doomed to failure. Very soon the base that his friend was sitting in was going to erupt into full-scale war, and she was going to be in great danger. He couldn't just sit there, knowing this. Hardly anyone saw him as he got up and walked out of the room, heading for the dock on the east wing.
He was going to save his friend.
To be continued...