It took a few days for Fluttermask to reach its destination, and during the trip, Hana had plenty of time to get up to speed on the situation in Fangalin. Ven Ron’s coup had caused a major split. There were many who believed that Ron had done nothing wrong. After all, the Fangalin Charter simply said that on the death of the Supreme Commander, the Grand Council would elect one of their members to replace him. Dren Calabane was dead, and Ven Ron, a Councilor, had been elected to replace him. Nobody really believed Ron’s story that Hana Lodimeur had murdered Dren Calabane, but for many it didn’t matter. Ven Ron was the legally elected Supreme Commander, and that was good enough.
But there were many others who believed that, while Ron had followed the letter of the law, he had demolished its spirit. These people believed that, even if the Charter didn’t specifically say anything about not murdering a Supreme Commander, there were certain things that were just inherently wrong. It didn’t matter for many that the Charter didn’t forbid what Ron had done. It didn’t need to, because murder was wrong, no matter what.
But what really pushed the opposition to Ron over the edge was that he had blamed Calabane’s death on Hana Lodimeur. Ron might have thought he was eliminating two rivals in one fell swoop, but what he’d really done was stir up a hornet’s nest. Hana was so popular and so famous throughout Fangalin that no one believed she would have killed Dren Calabane. No one bought Ron’s story that the great hero of Fangalin had turned against her patron. Ron might have thought he’d concocted the perfect crime, but in reality he’d screwed up, big time.
The problem was, Hana couldn’t see that it would be enough. In addition to Starfengt, Fluttermask, and the 9th Brigade, Xeliana and Vondamisk had also convinced the 3rd Fleet of the Fangalin Navy to join them, but that was it. Although the people of Fangalin were largely on Hana’s side, the military had mostly sided with Ron. The 9th Brigade and the 3rd Fleet were the best units in Fangalin, but they still were only a fraction of the total military strength of the Grand and Invincible Army. If Hana hoped to have a chance of dislodging Ven Ron from the Supreme Commander’s office, she would need more troops.
So, the day before they reached their destination, Hana came to a decision. She didn’t know if anybody would go along with it, but she knew what she needed to do. If she had to do it alone, she would. But if the past few days had taught her anything, it was that she had friends who cared deeply about her. Surely some of them would go along with her decision, even if they didn’t like it.
“We’re about to reach the rendezvous point,” Xeliana said, coming into Hana’s quarters on the third day after they left Numoris.
“Good,” Hana said. “I’ve been thinking, and I might have a plan.”
“Glad to hear it,” Xeliana replied, flashing one of her winning smiles.
“Yeah, well, you might not say that once you know what it is,” Hana said darkly.
“Haven’t the last few days taught you anything, Hana?” Xeliana said, exasperated. “I am going to stand by your side, no matter what.”
“Standing by my side doesn’t mean you agree with all of my decisions,” Hana said with a sardonic smile. “In fact, I seem to remember at one point that standing by my side meant that you and Arcten locked me in a holding cell.” Xeliana’s smile slid off her face and was replaced with a guilty expression.
“To be fair, that was totally Arcten’s idea,” Xeliana said.
“Yeah, but you went along with it,” Hana said, her smile turning into a grin. “The point is, I’ve had an idea. And it might be the worst idea I’ve ever had. But it’s the only one I can think of.”
“Maybe that’s true,” Xeliana said seriously. “But I’m not going to abandon you. I might try to talk you out of it. I might even refuse to go along with it, if it’s a really terrible idea. But I’m not going to abandon you. You will always be my friend, no matter what.”
“Thank you, Xel,” Hana said, taking Xeliana’s hands in hers. “I can never explain to you how much that means to me.”
“You don’t have to,” Xeliana replied, smiling, “because I know that you would do the same for me.” Beaming, the two friends hugged each other tight.
“Admiral Lodimeur,” came a voice over the intercom. It was Kyla Vertrane, the captain of Fluttermask. “We’re going to be dropping out of subspace in just a few minutes.”
“Thank you, Captain Vertrane,” Hana replied, letting Xeliana go. “I’m headed for the cargo bay right now.”
Fluttermask and its passengers were traveling with a detachment from the 3rd Fleet, on their way to meet up with the rest of the 3rd Fleet. There were four ships in the detachment, aside from Fluttermask: two destroyers, Crystalline Shield and Tower of Ilinia, one cruiser, Striving for Glory, and a battleship, Magisterium. They had been dispatched by the commander of the 3rd Fleet, Admiral Chieria Peltoren, to assist Starfengt and the 9th Brigade by punching a hole in the orbital defenses around Numoris. Peltoren hadn’t wanted to commit the entire 3rd Fleet to the rescue attempt, because she wanted to keep it a secret that the entire 3rd Fleet was opposing Ven Ron. If only 4 ships were involved, Peltoren could pretend, at least temporarily, that those 4 captains were acting on their own.
As soon as Fluttermask dropped out of subspace, Kyla Vertrane guided her ship into the docking bay of Peltoren’s massive flagship, Heart of the Galaxy. Galaxy had been one of Zhemeen Fortulis’s pet projects, and it had been completed under Dren Calabane’s supervision. It was the first of a brand new type of warship, bigger than a battleship or a cruiser. Calabane had dubbed it a Starfortress, and as Hana watched it loom larger and larger, she had to admit that it was very well named.
To be continued…