Archive for November, 2012
Regat was a dry, rocky planet. At least, the small part of the planet Dennethom had seen. Indra, for all its heat, got lots of rain, making it humid and perfect for agriculture. Regat was just plain hot.
Wydun met them on his private landing strip. He appeared short for a Boentu, Dennethom noticed. And his robes were rather luxurious for a Steward of the outer rim. Perhaps a gift from a benefactor. A pre-payment of sorts.
His mate, La-Nar, was also present. She greeted Yasana politely and offered to take her around the city, while the others played with military craft. Dennethom could tell his mother felt unhappy about the separation, but she didn’t show it as she La-Nar’s hand and they went on their way.
Wydun chatted with Dennethom amiably as they set off for Lo’kar Corporation headquarters. Despite the tension, Arronanto whooped with pleasure as he saw the small, sleek fighter glide towards him. When offered the chance to take the controls, Arronanto almost acted as though if he died today, he would be happy. Almost.
While Arronanto took off in the new generation shuttle, Arjuna went off with their guide to take a look at latest volt cannons.
“Have you had a chance to look over those military contracts, Tsalu?” Wydun politely inquired.
“Yes. It doesn’t seem to be too high an increase in production.”
Wydun shook his head sadly. “The problem is not with our end of the production line, Tsalu. It’s Adonis. Businesses here cannot produce the parts if they don’t have the materials. Meylan, the Steward, has put such tight controls on mining there is simply no way we can meet our obligations for the Boentu military.”
Dennethom nodded his head. “It is tricky. Meylan has concerns about pollutants. From what I read in the reports, he has every reason to be concerned. He feels if he increases the mining operations, it would take pollutants to dangerous levels.”
Wydun waived his hand dismissively. “In a hundred cycles, perhaps. But these are materials needed today. Meylan wants you to believe he is one extra load away from destroying the planet. It’s simply not true.”
Dennethom felt perplexed. Wydun looked genuinely concerned about the situation with the local manufacturers. What if there was no plot to assassinate the Chrans?
“I will speak with Steward Meylan, and see if there’s any way to change his production loads. Perhaps the palace could offer some assistance. In the meantime, I will see about getting the military quotas back to last cycle’s rates. We are the largest military force in the galaxy. There’s no reason these orders can’t wait.”
Wydun didn’t seem entirely happy with the resolution. Maybe it was the talk of reducing quotas, Dennethom suspected. The businesses on Regat were probably quite thrilled to have the increased activity. But whatever concerns Wydun had, he did not reveal them to the younger Boentu. Instead he said, “I hope you and your family will join us for dinner before you return to Indra tonight.”
Dennethom smiled, and shook his head. “I don’t know. It is quite the journey from Regat to Indra and I have several meetings to attend tomorrow.”
“But you have to come,” Wydun replied. “I invited the founder of Lo’Kar and a few other local business owners. I promised them they would get a chance to meet the future leader of our system. You can’t let me down now. You’ll make me a dishonourable liar.”
We wouldn’t want that, Dennethom thought to himself. You’re less a dishonourable liar and more just a dishonourable assassin. He nodded his head in consent and said, “in that case it would be my pleasure to attend.”
He told his brother and sister first. They were sweaty and tired from their day in the badlands, but when Dennethom informed them of the news, they became alert; ready for anything. They waited until after dinner to break the news to Yasana, in their private living quarters.
Yasana’s eyes flashed with anger. “Three moons. Three moons have gone by and you never once spoke to me of this?” She was seething. Her voice dangerously low and quiet.
“We didn’t know what to believe,” Arjuna began.
“Your cousin Lossepharr has been jealous of you since the very beginning. Even your grandmother, Lady Tari, feared he would tear the family apart.”
“We didn’t want to worry you,” Arronanto said, starting to put an arm around her shoulder. But Yasana would have none of it. She threw off his arm, getting to her feet and hissed at her children. “I am not some frail Arthemian female. I am a Boentu. I am Lady Yasana. Wife of Chran. Mother to future leader’s of Boentu. You do not treat me like I am some sort of tiny creature you need to protect.”
Dennethom looked solemn. “I should not have kept this secret from you, mother. You are correct. You had a right to know.”
Yasana continued to stare back at them, her arms crossed and her ears twitching. An apology wasn’t going to keep her quiet this time.
“Since you didn’t report this to your uncle, I suppose you believe he is also involved.”
“He sent me here. I must consider the possibility.”
Yasana took a deep breath. “Katha hasn’t always been the family he should be. The way he has treated you appalls me. But I don’t believe he would ever hurt you.”
Dennethom shrugged. “Perhaps.”
“But you cannot take that risk, and I understand,” Yasana continued. “I suppose you have a plan in place?”
“I procured a ship on Regat, through Ninsun, the Steward of Veran.”
Yasana nodded her head. “I know him. He was a good friend of your father’s and also your Grandsire.”
“Veran frequently trades with Regat. It’s not so unusual he would dock a ship there. It’s waiting, with supplies, whenever we need to use it.”
“There will be an investigation. You are after all, Future Leader. Besides which, your cousin will want to make certain you are truly dead. You will need bodies.”
This time Dennethom shook his head, discouraged. “I tried to procure some from the medical centre on Mandos, but there’s too much paperwork involved. I couldn’t find a way to get bodies without raising suspicions. But from my research, we should be able to rig the ship so that when it blows, there’s nothing big enough to hold remains.”
Yasana took another deep breath, closing her eyes in thought. “You did well. It could work. Just one more thing though. You all realise that if we go through with this, we’re not going home for a long time.”
“We know,” Arjuna whispered.
“Connect him, please,” he replied, forcing himself to breathe.
“Putting him through on your main vid screen,” said the voice.
Dennethom looked up at the large screen to the left of his desk, and tried to relax. No sense letting the Steward know he was on-edge. A moment later, the face of a Boentu filled the screen. He was older than Dennethom although still fairly young. He had only been in his position for five cycles. When did Lossepharr befriend him? Dennethom wondered. Probably before he even came to power.
“Ah, Tsalu Dennethom, it is good to speak to you. I trust you are enjoying your time on Indra?” He seemed polite, but his smile felt chilly.
“Yes, thank you,” Dennethom replied with a courteous headnod. “Indra is a remarkable place. Although not quite so big and exotic as I remember from my childhood.”
“That’s right, I had forgotten you and your siblings had visited the outer rim when you were younglings.”
“A long time ago. My mother felt that if we were to one day lead, we needed to see the system with our own eyes.”
“A wise woman.”
Dennethom laughed, but it felt forced. “I suspect it was actually an excuse to visit Iapetus.”
“I don’t blame her. I hear the bioluminescent lake is unforgettable.”
Again Dennethom chuckled politely. He felt uncomfortable at the way Wydun’s stared at him. “You’ve heard correct. But, since then, most of my trips to the outer rim have been on business. So, what is it I can do for you today, Wydun?”
Wydun laughed at Dennethom’s eagerness to set aside pleasantries. “To be honest Tsalu, I was wondering when you might consider visiting Regat.”
“I woud love to visit Regat. I’m afraid my schedule is a little tied up with this new trade agreement with the Arthemians. But I am eager to see the great manufacturing plants on Regat.”
“You should, and soon. The Lo’Kar Corporation are about to unveil their latest shuttle craft. From what I understand, they’ve completely re-designed the thrusters.”
“Oh? I would love to fly in one.” This time Dennethom was not lying.
“Then please consider a visit. I realise you’re busy, but make a day trip of it.” Dennethom knew this was coming. Indeed he had planned for it. Yes he still felt reluctant to agree. Wydun added, “Although I confess I may bend your ear about the military’s new fleet requirements. I’m not sure the local manufacturer’s can keep up with current demands unless the steward on Adonis can help.”
He watched Dennethom intently. He’s looking for hesitation. Some sign that I know. Instead Dennethom shook his head and smiled. “In truth, I don’t know how much I can do on that front, but I will certainly make a visit. Speak with my assistant and he can schedule something for us.”
Wydun looked elated. His eyes shone. “Womderful. It’ll be good to finally meet you in person.” He then added in a too-casual voice, “You should bring your whole family. I bet your brother and sister will love to fly the new shuttle. I’m sure they’ll them at the controls.”
Again Dennethom froze. He knew Wydun would want his family present. He had to, to take out the whole line. Still, the mention of his family made the threat feel more immediate. “Maybe. Yes. Although I shall probably leave my mother behind. I can’t imagine she’ll have much fun walking around manufacturing plants.”
“Bring her anyway,” Wydun insisted. “She and my wife can visit the bazaars. If you like haggling you can find a cheap deal on almost anything on Regat.”
Including murder, Dennethom thought. What did Lossepharr promise Wydun for the assassination of the Chran family? Instead he said, “I’ll see what I can do.”
Dennethom sat in his office on Indra, catching up on news from the capital. He was supposed to tour a large farming facility today. It produced the grass for their training and meditation mats. But the owner cancelled. There had been a major shipping mishap and he needed to make sure it got taken care of, or they would have their orders cut.
So Dennethom found himself with a rare day off. Arjuna and Arronanto had taken a craft out to the badlands to hunt and wouldn’t be back until late. His mother busied herself at one of Indra’s many bazaars. He thought about accompanying her, but knew he’d be unable to keep up with her shopping habit. Indra was the closest thing to civilization Yasana would experience in the outer rim.
So, after a morning spent reading to some Boentu younglings – the school was thrilled to have such an illustrious visitor show up unexpectedly- he decided to sit in his office and catch up on the goings on back home. Since arriving in the outer rim three moons ago, he had been contacted by Katha just once, early on, to make sure their living quarters were satisfactory. After that all their correspondence had gone via Quani.
Dennethom poured a clear liquid from out of a decanter. It was a local alcoholic beverage made from the same grass used in their meditation mats, and a popular drink in these parts. Cheap and easy to produce. It didn’t have all the added taxes and shipping costs like the wines from the inner system. It tasted pretty good too. Refreshing on a hot day like today. Most days were hot. Most nights too. Though the Boentu referred to these planets as part of the “outer rim” they were actually located close to Arcturus, one of the Boentu system’s two stars. The crops grew well but it felt hotter than back home.
Tomorrow he was to meet with some farmers about potential trade with the Arthemian System. He wanted to be prepared. Still, he couldn’t help enjoying his day of freedom. Maybe once was he was finished with this, he could put in some time at the dojo. Although he wasn’t crazy about training in this weather. Arjuna and Arronanto went every day and always came back soaking wet and complaining of the heat. Still…
He was just about to pull up the files for the meeting tomorrow to familiarize himself with the contracts, when his comms chimed. He tapped a button and the voice of a male Boentu could be heard.
“Sorry to bother you Tsalu Dennethom, but I have Steward Wydun of Regat wishing to speak with you.”
Dennethom felt his breath catch for a moment. He had wondered when Wydun would make contact with him. Three moons he had been in the outer rim and he hadn’t heard a word except for the occasional required correspondence. He had begun to think he would need to pre-empt the visit himself.
“What shall I tell the Steward, Tsalu?” the polite voice asked, when Dennethom failed to reply.
Silence filled the room. Stunned, Dennethom felt as though he had been kicked in the stomach. He sat down, feeling uncertain and looked over at his brother and sister. Suddenly, the door slid open and Yasana popped her head in. “We need to be up early tomorrow. I hope you three are planning on turning in soon.”
“We’ll be heading to bed soon,” Dennethom reassured her, though he sounded mechanical and totally unlike himself.
Yasana heard the tension in her son’s voice. “Is there something wrong?”
Arronanto approached their mother, attempting to guide her back to bed. “Nothing is wrong. We’ll be going to sleep soon. We promise.” Yasana obeyed, leaving her children with one last concerned glance.
“Do we trust Enjawne?” Arronanto asked, turning back towards his brother and sister.
“He has no reason to lie,” Dennethom replied.
“True, but Lossepharr plotting to kill you? That sounds far-fetched. Surely even he wouldn’t be so bold.”
“Oh?” Arjuna asked, her voice tight with barely controlled rage. “All of our lives Arro, Lossepharr has plotted against us to take away Denne’s title. Now that Denne is so close, you don’t think he’s willing to make this last effort?”
“Okay, but murder?” Arronanto asked, even though Arjuna was right. They all knew that Lossepharr was capable of it. They had never imagined he would resort to such a thing, but his rage at the Chran children had been building for many years.
Dennethom beckoned for his brother and sister to sit down, which they did. “We have to believe what Enjawne says is correct. It’s possible Lossepharr put him up to this for some other purpose, but I can’t think what it is.”
“Do you know this Wydun?” Arjuna asked.
“Barely. He replaced his father as Steward only two moons ago. For all I know, he could be part of a plot with Lossepharr.”
“So we don’t go tomorrow. We make our excuses,” Arronanto replied.
“No,” Arjuna responded. “If we don’t go to the outer rim, Dennethom will get suspicious. Besides, this could be exactly what he wants.”
“Arjuna’s right,” Dennethom agreed.
“But if we go, and decline Wydun’s invitation, he’ll still be suspicious,” Arronanto pointed out.
“Precisely why we must go to Regat. We don’t know what kind of fail safe plans Lossepharr will have if this one falls through.”
“And we cant guarantee Enjawne will find out about the next attack,” Arjuna pointed out.
Dennethom nodded his head in agreement. “We go to Regat just as Lossepharr would want and we play into his plan. I have my own connections. I’ve visited the outer rim more recently than Lossepharr. There are plenty of people I can trust. I can get us a ship. I may even be able to get bodies to make it look like the plan worked.”
“And then what?” Arjuna asked.
Arjuna recoiled in horror. “After he tried to kill you, you want Lossepharr to win? He should pay for what he did! You can’t expect me to run. I won’t!”
“Nor I,” Arronanto chimed in.
Dennethom signalled to them to keep their voices down. He didn’t want their mother overhearing them. “We have to run. It’s the only way I can protect us all. Lossepharr won’t stop unless he believes we are dead.”
“But you’re the Future Leader. We can get protection-”Arronanto began.
“From who?” Dennethom demanded. “Arro, this plot could go all the way up to Katha himself.”
Arjuna regarded her brother with a troubled look. “You’re supposed to be the future leader of Boentu. Are you suggesting we just let Lossepharr have the title?”
Dennethom shook his head. “No. If Lossepharr is willing to kill his own kin to become leader then there’s no telling what brutalities he’s capable of. We’ll take some time. Let them believe we’re dead. We still have trusted allies in the system. They will be our eyes and ears. We will build up an army. When Katha is ready to step down I will reclaim my place as rightful leader.”
With reluctance, Arronanto and Arjuna agreed to the plan. They knew Dennethom was right. For the foreseeable future, Lossepharr will think he won.
“Would you believe dear uncle Katha,” Arjuna said with a snort as the trio of siblings collapsed in the living quarters at Boentu Palace. “Rambling on about how we would miss us.”
Dennethom shook his head with bemusement. “I’m not sure what to believe. He seemed genuine.”
“There’s nothing genuine about that man,” Arjuna said as she flopped down on a large cushioned chair. “He says he loves you as a son one moment, and then tries to get rid of you the next.”
“It would be nice one of these days to actually know my position with him. At least Lossepharr makes it clear he despises me.”
“Lossy seemed subdued tonight, didn’t he?” Arronanto remarked as he pulled out a deck of playing cards.
“He did,” Dennethom agreed. In fact, neither Lossepharr nor Andor made any of the usual cutting remarks at the farewell dinner. “Unusually so.”
“At least the food was good,” said Arronanto.
“Yes. How thoughtful of Katha to supply a menu of culinary delights which are hard to find in the outer rim,” Arjuna said drily.
Dennethom suppressed a yawn. He rubbed his eyes, exhausted. “I suppose you two are going to stay up and play cards?”
Arjuna and Arronanto looked at each other as though the idea had only just occured to them. “Sounds like a good idea to me,” Arjuna replied. “Join us. At least for one hand.”
Dennethom began to shake his head, reluctantly. Arronanto chimed in. “Come on. You’re not going to go to bed already like mother. You can sleep on the trip.”
Dennethom took a moment to consider the proposition. It was enticing. Then again, he suspected his brother only wanted to include him because he planned on cleaning Dennethom out. Tired, but about to give in to peer pressure anyway, he spotted a flashing light on the nearby comms screen. He supposed he’d better check just in case something needed his attention before morning. And then he would go to sleep. Yes. That would be the smart thing to do.
The message was for him, as he suspected. It appeared encrypted. The sender’s name concealed. Frowning he punched in a decryption code and hit play. No visual accompanied the recorded message, yet he recognized the voice of his cousin, Enjawne.
“Dennethom,” Enjawne’s voice sounded harried. “I know you are ready to leave for the outer rim, but you must know there is a plot against you and your family.” Arjuna and Arronanto who had been busy doling out cards glanced up, alert yet wary. “Wydun, the steward on Regat, is a close friend of my brother’s. Lossepharr plans to have Wydun invite you to Regat where he will tamper with your ship. I’m not certain of the details, he doesn’t trust me much. However, he plans to kill your entire family. That way he can become the new Boentu leader. I’m not certain when he intends to do this. I do know that they will make it look like your ship is having problems, get you to stay overnight on Regat giving Wydun the opportunity to have his people plant an explosive. Lossepharr means business this time. You need to be careful when you’re in the outer rim. Don’t go to Regat.” Enjawne paused, as though listening for someone to come in. “I have to go now. I will try to get more information to you if I can.”
Lossepharr placed a hand on Karna’s knee. She shifted, allowing his hand to rest on the seat between them. He narrowed his eyes and scowled. He was growing tired of Karna and her teasing ways. Just how long did she plan to keep those legs pinned together anyway? Didn’t she realise what an honour he had bestowed upon her?
He took a long sip of his drink. The fire water burned his throat as he swallowed but he didn’t care. He prefered it that way. He leaned back in his seat to watch the continued game of Kha’Ten Enjawne and Yocan played. He shook his head as Enjawne moved a piece on the board. In three moves Yocan would control the board, didn’t Enjawne understand? But Enjawne was never one to bother with strategy. Lossepharr wondered once again how he could be related to such an imbecile.
“Did you hear?” Andor asked as he strolled in and poured himself some fire water. “The pacifist is leaving for the outer rim. And he’s taking the rest of the Chrans with him.”
“Pacifist” was the little derogatory nickname he and Lossepharr had for Dennethom after the future leader had only reluctantly gone to war in the Arthema System.
“For how long,” Dennethom asked, still glum and just a little resentful as Karna gave up her seat to Andor. Why was she always so damn quick to create space between them?
“Half a cycle,” Andor said, his eyes gleaming.
“Oh?” Yocan replied, glancing up from his game. “Father must really want him out of his hair.”
“Seems that way,” Andor agreed. Noticing his brothers at play, he added, “You do realise he’s about to control the board. Move your piece over there.”
As Enjawne protested at his older brother’s unwarranted advice, Lossepharr sighed. “What good does a half cycle do? Even if father doesn’t think him ready yet, he’s still going to be the next leader.”
“Unless he isn’t,” Karna replied, her voice soft and seductive. The other siblings argued over how Enjawne should proceed. Lossepharr almost didn’t hear her.
“What does that mean?” he asked, eyeing her.
Karna took a deep breath. “It means, Tsalu Lossepharr, the outer rim can be a dangerous place, especially for those who only know life in the capital.”
Lossepharr leaned back, thinking. The brothers continued to argue. Enjawne looked ready to tip the board over. “Quiet!” Lossepharr snapped. “No. It doesn’t make any difference. Even if something were to happen to Dennethom, he still has his brother and sister.”
“That’s not the way your father sees things,”Karna replied.
“True, but not everyone feels the way he does. Take Quani. He’s always pointing out the letter of the law.” He got up and began to pace. His brothers had stopped their squabble and looked to Lossepharr expectantly, uncertain what they had missed in the conversation.
“No. If there is an accident it must be something which wipes out the entire line of Chran,” he muttered.
Lossepharrr’s brothers lapsed into a stunned silence as they realised what their brother proposed.
“It would be difficult,” Karna replied. “Is that something you can do?”
Was it? It was a good question, one Lossepharr wasn’t certain he knew the answer to. And then it came to him. A slow smile spread across his lips. “Difficult, but not impossible.”
Dennethom sat pouring over reports. He was overseeing a new trade agreement with the Arthemians, and though exhausted, he felt determined to get through it all tonight. Which meant cancelling dinner with his family. For the third time in a row. But what could he do? He had so much to learn. Although he knew he would need to rely on the advise of his cabinet, he wanted to be familiar with every aspect of governing. Arjuna thought he was setting himself an impossible task, but he couldn’t imagine leading in any other way.
A tap on the door caused him to look up. The door slid open and his brother and sister entered without waiting for an invitation. Arjuna carried a large platter while Arronanto held a bottle of Arthemian wine and three goblets.
“We thought you might spend another evening down here,” Arjuna said, laying the platter down and removing the lids of several tureens. “So we decided to bring you dinner.”
“And wine,” Dennethom noted. “That’s not really going to help me work.”
“It’s not really supposed to,” Arronanto grinned as he began pouring wine into the goblets.
Dennethom took his glass, enjoying the sweetness while Arjuna ladled up food for all of them.
“You may still want to come join us for a proper meal one of these days. Mother complains that she barely knows what you look like.”
“For that matter, come to the dojo,” Arronanto added, gulping down his wine and pouring more.
“You are looking a little chubby big brother,” Arjuna agreed.
Dennethom chuckled. He was muscular and tall, with not an ounce of useless fat on his entire body. “I do miss my training sessions,” he admitted.
“You’re also missing out on our dear, darling cousin, Lossy,” said Arronanto.
Dennethom took a bite of chunky hot stew. Mmm. It was spicy, just like their grandmother used to make. “And that’s a bad thing?” he asked his brother.
“Oh yes,” Arronanto replied. “You should see him these days.”
“All Lossepharr does is sulk. He snaps at everyone. Even his lover, Karna.”
“He wishes she’s his lover,” Arronanto replied.
Dennethom chuckled. He missed having his brother and sister hanging around him like this. Ever since returning from the Proving Ground it had been non-stop work and publicity. As for Lossepharr, he had hardly seen much of him, save for a brief hospital visit when they first arrived home.
They chatted about various gossip around the palace. Dennethom polished off one bowl of stew and was ready to get a refill when his Comms chimed.
“Ignore it” Arronanto mouthed to his big brother.
Dennethom frowned. “I can’t. It’s a message from Katha marked ‘urgent’.”
He touched a button his screen and read the message. His frown deepened.
“What’s wrong?” Arjuna asked, hurrying to his side.
“He’s sending me to the Outer Rim. He wants me to learn the in’s and out’s of life there and see how we can make a stronger Boentu race.”
“For how long?”
“Half a cycle.”
Arjuna snorted. “He wants you to spend half a cycle in the Outer Rim? I guess he’s hoping you’ll kill yourself there, so Lossepharr can replace you.”
“When does he plan to hand over to you?” Arronanto asked.
“Never it seems like. Every day I feel as though he grows more resentful of me.”
“Great and now he gets to send you off to the Outer Rim,” Arjuna was fuming. “You don’t have to stand for this.”
“Actually, I think I do. He’s still the Steward. Until he believes I’m ready, I have to follow his orders.”
“But half a cycle away from you?” Arjuna replied in dismay, wrapping an arm around her brother.
Dennethom sighed. “I know. “ He paused. “You both could always come with me. It’d be an adventure.”
Arronanto groaned. “Yes. But then we’d have to kill ourselves.”
Every day it seemed Katha had less to do as Dennethom took on greater responsibility as Future Leader. Getting to know planetary stewards, learning of their needs, and even representing the Boentu race on visits to other Systems. The lack of work was frustrating. Every day he received reports of the good job Dennethom was doing. Yet still Katha felt troubled.
He sat in his chair, listening to another audio report of Dennethom’s success, this time on Veran, in the outer rim. Katha threw down the report in frustration, and tapping his communications console he summoned his uncle Draddo, and also his vizier, Quani.
Seeing Katha’s unhappiness clearly etched in his face, Quani eyed Drado wearily as they entered Katha’s office. Katha beckoned them both to sit.
“I have concerns,” Katha said once the two took their seats.
“What kind of concerns, Sire?” Quani asked.
“Dennethom,” Katha replied.
Quani raised his eyebrows in surprise. Even Draddo looked tense. After the events on Hadad, they both had hoped there would be no more questions of Dennethom and the line of succession. “What about Dennethom concerns you?” Quani asked. “By all accounts the stewards have nothing but praise for his performance.”
Katha leaned forward, his chin resting in his hand. “You see that’s my problem Quani. Dennethom is doing an excessively good job.” Draddo inwardly sighed but said nothing, allowing his liege to continue. “I am concerned Dennethom wants to receive the title of Boentu Leader sooner than I would like.”
“Sire, is that such a bad thing? It would give you a chance to spend more time with your family,” Quani replied.
“I am still Steward of the Boentu System, Quani,” Katha said rather icily. “The time at which Dennethom takes office is of my choosing, not his.”
Draddo cleared his throat. “Has Dennethom given you any particular reason to be concerned?”
Katha gestured to his computer. “These reports are plenty cause for concern. The people love him. If he decides to take the position early, he would have plenty of support.”
Again, Quani and Draddo eyed each other. They were unsure what they could say to reassure their liege. Draddo cleared his throat, and spoke, pensively. “Nephew, if you are concerned Dennethom will try to take power before he is ready, you could always send him away.”
Quani stared at his companion in disbelief, but Draddo did not so much as glance his way. “You could send him to the outer rim for a while. I’m sure there is plenty of infrastructure work to keep him busy. It will be a good learning experience for him, while you decide when to step down.”
Quani looked disappointedly at Draddo. He understood this was probably the best answer Draddo could come up with to keep Katha from doing anything drastic, but he was unhappy nonetheless.
Katha on the other hand, gave Draddo his full attention, nodding his head in agreement. “Yes, that does sound like the best option,” he said, when Draddo finished speaking. “It will give Dennethom plenty of opportunity to get to know the outer rim planets. And keep him out of my hair.”
Dennethom felt the urge to throw up. His mouth was dry and rage threatened to overwhelm him. The unfairness of it all. He had lost his grandparents early on. He didn’t even remember his father. Now to lose his brother and sister. How? How could he do this? His mother would never forgive him. It would destroy her. His mother….
“Have you been able to raise the camp?” he asked, turning to the warrior on Comms.
“No, sire,” he replied stiffly.
“I wanted to at least say goodbye to them,” he muttered. He found himself glancing about at his crew. Everyone on board the bridge, everyone throughout the ship, knew somebody in the camp. This wasn’t some ugly decision that would only affect him. Every one of them would be affected. But they all know their greater duty was to protect the Boentu people. Of course, invaders were one thing. But a virus?
Illness had taken away many of his family. He wondered how his brother and sister were faring? They wouldn’t want to be cut down by illness. No Boentu wants that.
“Tactical,” Dennethom said, and his voice cracked. “Target GenShar camp. Fire when ready.”
He watched as the plume went up from the planet surface, and felt his insides being torn apart. His mind screamed. But he stayed and watched, even as the blackness overcame his vision.
Dennethom opened his eyes. He was in the glowing cavern again. Only, the rocks no longer glowed.
He stank. He had thrown up. Probably a reaction to whatever radiation exposure the rocks produced. Dennethom wondered if he had made the decision fast enough, before the glowing cavern had done permanent damage to his body.
The memories still clung to him, even as he felt the platform, chair and all, begin to rise, and saw the hazy sky as the ceiling opened.
He refused to think about the all too real hallucination and the choice he had made, as he grabbed Lossepharr and brought him to the platform. Instead he focused on the sky above, and the exit.