Chapter Thirty-one: Nothing I Can Do

“Still no response on the radio?” I ask even though I know the answer.

“I’m sorry, Elikel. No, sir.” Alimari Dekor responds. “Our reinforcements should have been here by now.”

He’s right, but the reinforcements are only part of my concern. I… want to know what happened between Janil and Kenlyi.

Did Kenlyi win? Did the Groyin kill him for killing Janil in honorable combat? Did Janil defeat Kenlyi, and silence is his way of responding? Could it be something else altogether?

I don’t understand. I thought I did everything right. He said I took it too far with the eggs, but does he truly value the lives of worthless, mindless drones over his own kind? I suppose he does think that, if what Kenlyi said was true.

I miss that innocent, curious boy that Kalarai took just months ago. He was sweet, innocent, servile. I… loved him like a son in the beginning. In time, as he matured, we developed a more mature relationship. Still, his loving, submissive nature never changed. So much has changed, and there’s nothing I can do.

“Keep monitoring. It could be any minute now. The moment that we get a signal from another ship, request evac.” Of course, Dekor knows this. I’ve repeated this order multiple times now.

Our supplies are running low. We’ve got plenty of clean water, but we’re low on food. With rationing, we’ve two days before we have to start hunting or perhaps try to raid a Groyin patrol. Our morale is… rock bottom, though. Everyone here has lost someone, be it a member of their yula or a close friend. Everyone knows how dire the situation is, and the news about Kenlyi and Janil only demoralized us that much more.

I have asked myself this before, and I still can’t shake it. Did I make a mistake in coming here? Should I have simply brought a bigger force? What could I have done differently?

In the end, I’m stuck with the decisions I’ve made, and I must deal with the consequences. I… just wanted to fulfill my duty as a Camfurdian, to spread our influence.

I lose myself in these thoughts for hours.

“Alim Elikel! Hurry!” Dekor shouts and I sprint back to the radio.

“This is Alimari Reltan aboard Camfurdian battle cruiser 882. We have received your distress call, request for evacuation is confirmed.” The voice calls out over the radio.

“Good to hear a friendly voice, Alimari Reltan. This is Alimari Dekor, along with Alim Elikel.” Dekor looks at me with a grin.

“We see… two distress beacons active? One on a mountainside, the other near some sort of ruined structure? Can you confirm?”

“The beacon at the ruined structure can be ignored. We had to fall back from that position. We are located in a cave in that mountain.” I sigh as I give that report.

“Understood. ETA is forty minutes. We’ll keep you informed. Have the bugs mounted any AA defenses?”

“Some, but we managed to take most of the makeshift installations out. This side of the planet is pretty sparse.” Dekor quickly responds.

“We’ll keep our eyes open then. We’ll contact again when we’re closer. Be ready to move once we touch down. In and out.”

“Understood. We’re going to break down camp now.” I say as Dekor closes the line.

I walk toward the camp proper, where most of he remaining men are sleeping. “Listen up everyone!” I shout loudly.

Groggily, many of them start to get under motion.

“Just got word from Alimari Reltan of cruiser 882, we’re going home. Evac is in forty minutes, so I expect this camp broke down in twenty!” I say with a grin. I can see relieved smiles on so many faces. We’ve earned this break.

Alim Gouhr clenches his eyes shut for a moment, fighting back a headache, I’d guess. “No word from the boys?”

I shake my head. “None. Alimari Kenlyi would have contacted us by now. I’m sorry, my friend.”

He shakes his head. “No sympathy necessary, Eli. You’ve lost more than me in this war. How… should we record their losses?”

“Alimari Kenlyi… should be reported assumed killed, died defending the honor of the Camfurdian species.” I sigh and grab Gouhr’s shoulder for a moment. I shake my head as I withdraw my hand. “Janil, son of Arahni, is to be branded a traitor. Whoever brings proof of Janil’s death to me shall earn my favor and a place in my yula.” I bite my lip, hating that I had to make either of those declarations.

“So witnessed.” Gouhr sighs. “I never expected Janil, as fragile as he always seemed, to be the one to turn his back on us. When I first met him, I knew he was the kind to serve his entire life, that he’d probably never seek to be dominus. To have a submissive soul like that is… unique.”

I nod solemnly. “I thought the same. We… must mourn later, friend. We need to break down camp. They’ll be here shortly.”

The bulk of the camp is broke down in under twenty-five minutes. While things such as the bedding and even the tents are considered expendable, we try to pack as much of it back as possible once we’ve secured the important items. Sensor data and any other radio equipment is the first to be packed. Even if we were running for our lives, the sensor data we obtained mapping the caves could be valuable. After that, we make sure all weapons, ammunition, and supplies are secured.

Dekor’s handheld radio beeps a few times. “This is cruiser 882, Alimari Reltan reporting. We are on our descent to your location. Touchdown in six minutes.”

“Understood. We’ll be waiting!” Dekor grins and looks over at me and Monrenth.

“Time to get the hell off this rock. I still thing we ought to fry these bugs from orbit.” Monrenth says to me.

“I hope we do. We just have to get the council to approve that.” I look back to everyone else. “Our ride’s here, let’s move out!”

In less than ten minutes, we’re finally off that damned rock. As we’re throwing off our packs, one of the ships crew approaches me.

“Alim Elikel?”

“That’s me. What do you need, Alimari…?” I study his markings but don’t recognize his yula.

“I’m Alimari Tyryn, second to Alim Khunsza. My yarl is now second in command here.”

“Alim Khunsza? I’ve never met him in person, but I know about some of his exploits. How is someone like him second in command now?” I look at the man confused and I can see a bit of frustration on his face.

“This was his ship, but when the first messages for assistance came from the deep probe you sent, well… our new commanding officer stepped in and took over. In fact, they want to have a chat with you, which is why I’m here, sir. I assume you know your way to the commander’s quarters?”

I nod. “My ship was the same design, so I know the layout. Thank you. I’ll report in immediately. I’m sure your CO wants a proper debrief.”

I wave Monrenth over. He nods and rushes over to me. “Come with me. We’re meeting the new commander of this ship. He’s no doubt going to want a full report, and I’d rather have you with me with all the scouting and recon you did.”

“Yes, sir.” He nods and we make our way out of the cargo hold and through the winding halls of the ship. After a few minutes, we reach the commander’s quarters. I knock.

Moments later, the door opens and we step inside. The commander’s room has an open view port, one of the rare aesthetics allowed in a warship. A figure is sitting in a high backed chair, facing the view port. I can’t make out their appearance from how they’re facing,

“Alim Elikel and Alimari Monrenth reporting as requested. I assume you want a report on what exactly happened down there. We’ve already forwarded the casualty report.”

Slowly, the chair turns around and the commander stands tall.

Angry eyes seem to burn a hole into my soul, and I feel my knees get shaky.

Alim Arahni scowls at me. “You’re fucking right I want to know what happened down there.”