Chapter Twenty-five: Cracks

“Janil, I want peace. I want us to make that happen, but… I’m not sure that I can get behind this idea that a hive mind is an ideal. That scares me.” I open my eyes as Kenlyi sits next to me. His hand slips atop my thigh. “I don’t even know if you’re still the same person that I… loved… earlier.”

“Of course I am, Ken. Nothing about what makes me who I am has changed. I’m just… sharing those traits now.”

“I’ll… trust you, but… before we hare off to Aevocar space, let’s at least try to reach Elikel. Too many things could go wrong for us not to at least try.” He squeezes my leg.

In an instant, I relay the request to the queen, to the entire hive. I nod to Kenlyi. “She says for us to use our best judgement. Ken?”

“Yeah?”

“I’ve… had a transceiver in my gear pack the entire time. That’s… how much trust I had in the Groyin once they explained things to me. I never considered using it.”

“You… what?! Why didn’t you…?” He looks at me, shocked by the announcement.

“Because we both agreed we were doing the right thing, right? Or… did you not really believe that?” My gaze turns firm.

“You’re right. It… is the right thing to do. Alim Elikel did take things too far. I’m sorry, Janil, I’m just…”

I wrap an arm around him. “You don’t have to explain anything, Kenlyi. I promise I’m still here by your side, okay?”

“Okay.” He sighs and leans into me. After a short while he straightens up. “Let’s… try to contact Elikel, then.”

“Alright.” I stand and offer him a hand up. He grabs my hand and we walk across the hall to my room. I start digging through the pack and finally grab the handheld transceiver. “Are you sure? This… could lead to nothing but trouble.”

“Or we might be able to talk sense into him.”

With a sigh, I activate the device, inputting the frequency we had been using. If Elikel has expanded the radio network, he’ll hear the broadcast.

“This is Alimari Janil, second to Alim Elikel.” A feeling of guilt hits me. No… I’m not Alimari Janil anymore, and I certainly am not Elikel’s second.

“By Tanril’s hand, Janil?!” It’s Monrenth, and I smile hearing his voice.

“It’s me, Monrenth. I was Kalarai’s second, and son of Alim Arahni.” I list the other information simply as a means of confirming identity.

“You escaped those bug bastards finally? What about the others?”

“Me and Alimari Kenlyi are safe. The others captured… took their own lives. Monrenth, brother, I need to speak with Elikel. And Kenlyi is going to want to speak with Alim Gouhr.”

There’s a pause and I can hear muffled conversation. Then, it goes silent until a distinct pop is heard, the sound of the microphone being removed from its caddy.

“My precious Janil, is it really you?” Elikel asks.

“It’s me, Eli. Me and Kenlyi are both safe.” My heart beats rapidly, knowing the pleasantries won’t last.

“Tell me, where are you? What did those monsters do to you?!”

I sigh, knowing he can hear it. “Eli… they’re not monsters. They… tended to my wounds, gave me food and water… and they’ve treated me like a king. I’m… aboard one of their ships.”

The moments silence are deafening.

“Janil, please, tell me you’re mounting a rescue. Tell me you’ve hijacked or stolen the ship. Tell me you’re not turning your back on me, on Monrenth… on Kalarai!

“Eli, Kalarai is the reason I’m even here! He… spoke to the Groyin before he died, suggesting a way to end the war. The Groyin recognized me from his mind. I’d be dishonoring him as my dominus if I didn’t carry out his dying wishes. His wishes were for peace, Eli. To end this war without further conflict.”

“How dare you speak such lies to me, boy! My Kalarai would have never have done such a thing!”

“But he did. I’ve seen… felt… heard the memory myself. I know it’s true. Elikel, stop this conflict. Tell me where you are and we can end this war peacefully.”

“Listen to yourself, Janil! These are the creatures that took Kala from us! Who left so many of our people to die. How can you side with them?!”

“They didn’t kill Kalarai, you did! You and your insane thoughts of conquest! My people were living in peace, quietly building our society, learning more about science, exploring the stars, and then you show up! You take me from my home because I dared to fall in love with Kala, and you have the audacity to blame Kala’s death on them?! No. You’re a monster, Eli.”

I hear a small sniffle before hearing the microphone being put back on its stand. Is… Elikel crying? Maybe… maybe I got through to him?

“Kenlyi?” I hear Alim Gouhr’s low voice. I pass the transceiver to him.

“Just a moment, sir.” Kenlyi glares at me and storms off to his room.

I heave a sigh. I… want to follow. I want to eavesdrop, but I don’t dare betray our friendship, strained as it is. I… didn’t expect things to turn so hostile so fast. I… didn’t mean to lose my temper.

I’m sorry, Eli. I… didn’t want it to end like this.

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