“My…daughter?” whispered Xendin Lodimeur, shocked. But then he shook his head
angrily. “No,” he growled, “that’s impossible. My daughter has been dead for two years.”
“Your daughter is not dead,” replied the woman Xendin had known as Komeela Shalavin. “She is standing right in front of you. I am Hana Lodimeur! Why would I lie to you?”
“To confuse me!” Xendin exclaimed angrily. “To appeal to my sentiments and manipulate me into doing what you want!”
“Clearly, if that was my plan, it’s working splendidly,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Look, I’ll prove it to you.” She lifted up her shirt slightly, exposing a small, crescent-shaped birthmark on the left side of her torso. “See? You recognize this birthmark, don’t you?” Xendin shook his head.
“That could be faked,” he said stubbornly. She sighed and pulled her shirt back down.
“Okay, fine,” she said, slightly irritated. “I’ll tell you some things that only you and I would know.” She thought for a second, then said, “Remember when I was five years old, and I fell out of a tree and broke my arm?”
“That proves nothing,” Xendin said with a scowl. “You could have gotten that information from Hana’s medical records.”
“True, but would those medical records tell how you rushed out of an important conference call to comfort me until the ambulance arrived?” she asked. “Would they have said anything about how you held my hand while the doctor set my arm, and how you bought me a purple teddy bear on the way home, and I named it Sparkles and carried it around with me everywhere I went for years?”
“You…you could have found that information somewhere,” he said uncertainly.
“What about when I was eleven, and a group of boys was bullying me at school, and you came to the school and cornered them in the bathroom and told them you’d have them shipped off to a military prison camp if they didn’t leave me alone?” she said insistently.
“I…was kind of surprised that worked, to be honest,” Xendin said, a small smile creeping across his face. But then he scowled again and shook his head. “I’m still not convinced.”
“Then what about when I was seventeen, and I told you I was going to withdraw my application from Imperial University and go to IMA instead? You told me I was too smart to waste my talents on a military career, and you convinced me to go ahead and go to IU.” She paused for a moment, and then continued, “You know I never told anyone else I was even considering going to IMA.”
Xendin was silent for a moment, his expression completely blank. Then he said in a very quiet voice, “It is you, isn’t it?” She nodded, and a single tear rolled down his cheek. “Oh, Hana,” he whispered.
“I’ve missed you, Daddy,” she whispered back, and immediately they wrapped their arms around each other tightly.
“How is this possible?” he asked in a hoarse voice. “They told me nobody survived. Nobody escaped from the Palace courtyard.”
“They lied to you, Daddy,” Hana said quietly, resting her head against his chest. “I was near a small gate when Redlamin’s troops showed up. A few of us managed to slip through before they started shooting. They had ground troops searching the streets for us, but a couple of Fangalin operatives found me and kept me hidden until everything calmed down.” She shook her head. “I still don’t know what happened to the others who escaped with me. I can only imagine that Redlamin’s troops found them.”
“So then you joined Fangalin,” he said, still holding her tightly.
“Yeah,” she replied. “I resisted at first. I mean, the whole reason I was in Citizen’s Plaza in the first place was to restore the Empire. Overthrowing the Empire was not my goal. But after awhile, they persuaded me.”
“How?” Xendin asked, but he had already guessed the answer.
“You know, Daddy,” Hana said with a smile. “If the Empire is so weak and so morally bankrupt that petty, power hungry men can fight over the Throne and kill their own citizens in the process, then isn’t it time that the Empire cease to exist? When a government starts killing its own people, then that government has lost its purpose, and needs to be overthrown. That’s what Fangalin taught me. I used to believe that the Empire could be saved. I thought there was still hope that it could be restored to its former glory. But Citizen’s Plaza showed me I was wrong. The Empire is a cancer that must be annihilated, no matter what.”
“No matter what…,” Xendin breathed. Hana looked deep into his eyes.
“Do you see now, Daddy?” she asked. “Why you need to do this mission? Why we must do whatever it takes to oppose anyone who would sit on the Imperial Throne, even if it means stabbing someone in the back?”
“I…I think I do,” he said slowly. “It makes perfect sense now.” He held her close to him again, and she snuggled in tightly. “Except for one thing,” he said suddenly.
“What’s that, Daddy?” she asked, pulling back and looking him in the eye again.
“Why the deception?” he asked with a frown. “Why not tell me who you were right from the beginning?”
“The Supreme Commander wanted you to join Fangalin because you believed it was the right path,” she said with a sigh. “He wanted you to be part of Fangalin because you believed in our cause, not because you were so grateful that I was alive that you’d do anything for us. He ordered me to keep my true identity a secret until this mission was over. I tried to convince him otherwise, but he wouldn’t budge, and the Supreme Commander’s word is law.”
“So what happens now, then?” Xendin said, his brow furrowed worriedly. “You told me who you were during the mission. Won’t you get in trouble?”
“Perhaps,” she said with a frown. “But hopefully I’ll be able to convince the Supreme Commander that it was the best course of action. He’s not an absolutist. He doesn’t necessarily mind if you disobey his orders, as long as you have a really good reason for doing so.”
“I see,” he said uncertainly. “Well!” he continued after a moment, “I certainly feel much better! Let’s go see if we can contact Admiral Tred!”
“Let’s do that, Daddy,” Hana said with a smile, and together they left the conference room and went back to the bridge.
To be continued…