Admiral Kryla Zomulin yawned widely as she dropped her bag on the floor of her apartment. It had been too long since she’d been home, but that was part of the job. Even more so now that she was an admiral.
An admiral. She still had a hard time believing that was her rank. After all, she was only 28 years old. In normal times, she would be by far the youngest admiral in the fleet, but these were far from normal times. One of her best friends was only 26, and had been promoted to admiral before her, and she also knew about a 25 year old man who was an admiral. The Fangalin attack on the Senate had done massive damage to the upper ranks of the IAF, as had the mass defections to Fangalin, Hadramoris and Midigal, and there still were too few new officers coming out of the Imperial Military Academy to make up for the shortfall.
She plopped down on her couch and closed her eyes. Six months since she’d been home. Too long. Fortunately her roommate was not in the military, and had done a good job of keeping the place clean while she was gone. There were advantages to living with a neat freak. She vowed to herself not to mess up the place too badly while she was here, but she knew from past experience that she’d probably break that vow.
“Wow, you’re actually here,” said a voice suddenly. She opened her eyes to see her roommate standing in the doorway. Chala Emilin had been her roommate for several years now, ever since she had graduated from IMA. Chala was tall and graceful, with long, dark hair and smooth, dark skin.
“I know, right?” Kryla said, closing her eyes again and taking a deep breath. “It almost doesn’t seem real. I’ve spent so much time on the bridge of a warship that to actually sit on my own couch in my own home…it’s almost too much comfort for me to handle.”
“I bet,” said Chala, settling down on the couch next to her. “How’ve you been?” Kryla opened her eyes and smiled, though there was a touch of sadness in her eyes.
“Oh, well, you know,” she said, “about as good as you can expect, fighting a losing war.”
“Is it really that bad?” Chala asked, a worried tone creeping into her voice.
“Yeah,” Kryla said with a sigh. “I can’t really talk about it, cause High Command doesn’t want the public to know how bad things are, but trust me, it’s bad.”
“Oh, Kryla,” Chala said sympathetically. “At least you’re home for a little while.”
“A month,” Kryla said with a sigh. “One month of R&R, and then I take command of a strike force headed for… Well, who knows where? Doesn’t matter, really. We’ll probably get clobbered no matter where we go. The Emperor is incompetent, and so are most of his followers. Heck, I include myself in that assessment. I have no business being an admiral. I don’t have the faintest idea what I’m doing.”
“Well, you’re alive,” said Chala optimistically. “You must be doing something right.”
“Pure dumb luck,” Kryla said, waving a hand dismissively. She opened her mouth to say more, but as she did, her tablet chimed, indicating she had an incoming call. She answered, and was somewhat surprised to see Admiral Abaden Lors’s head materialize in front of her.
“Admiral!” she exclaimed. “What can I do for you, sir?”
“Admiral Zomulin, good evening,” Lors said pleasantly. “How is it being home?”
“Oh, it’s fine, Admiral,” Kryla replied, a little confused.
“Good, good,” Lors said. He hesitated for a moment, and then said, “Kryla, how much can I trust you?”
“Completely, sir!” Zomulin said, a little offended that he asked.
“Are you sure, Kryla?” Lors asked. “What if I asked you to commit treason?” Kryla opened her mouth to respond, paused, thought for a second, and then opened her mouth again.
“Admiral,” she said in a measured tone, “you have been my mentor since I first joined the Imperial Fleet. I have listened to your advice for my entire career, and you’ve never steered me wrong. I have no reason to believe that you would start now.”
“Very well then,” Lors said, a pleased look appearing on his face. “I’m going to send you some information on my plans. Please look it over and tell me what you think. Take your time. I don’t want you to rush into this. And Kryla…if you don’t agree to this plan, at least promise me one thing.”
“Anything, sir,” Kryla replied.
“Do not tell anyone about what I’ve shown you,” Lors said somberly.
“I promise, sir,” Kryla said.
“Very good, Kryla,” Lors said, his smile returning. “I knew I could count on you.” And with that, he ended the call. Kryla and Chala shared a confused look, and a few seconds later, a different chime sounded from Kryla’s tablet, letting her know that the information from Lors had arrived. She pulled it up, and after reading it over for a few minutes, she let out a gasp.
“What is it?” Chala asked, alarmed.
“He…he wasn’t joking about treason,” Kryla replied, her voice tight. “He wants me to defect to General Mifalis with him.”
“Oh,” said Chala, her brow furrowed in thought. “Well, that’s not really treason, is it? I mean, it’s not like Jimalin Redlamin is really the Emperor, anyway. I’m no expert on Imperial law, but I know enough to know that the Emperor needs to be elected by the Senate.”
“Hmmm,” Kryla said, her own brow furrowing as she thought about this, “I suppose you’re right.”
“So, what are you going to do?” Chala asked after a few minutes of silence.
“Me?” said Kryla. “Oh, I’ll follow Abaden Lors wherever he goes. I wasn’t kidding about what I said to him. He never has steered me wrong, and whether or not Valador Mifalis will be a better Emperor than Jimalin Redlamin doesn’t really matter. Redlamin’s reign is going to end when Erelesk Votalin attacks Endragar, no doubt about it.”
“So…I guess this is goodbye, then,” Chala said with a frown.
“Yeah,” Kryla replied, her frown mirroring her friend’s. “I won’t be able to come back to Bliddle unless it goes over to Mifalis. Technically, this will be enemy territory for me.”
“I’ll miss you, Kryla,” said Chala sadly.
“I’ll miss you too, Chala,” said Kryla, and then she reached over and gave her friend a big hug. “Thank you for everything.”
To be continued…