Hana woke up with a jolt, as the shuttle dropped out of subspace with a shudder. She groaned as she looked over at her clock. 1157. Even though she’d ordered her squad to sleep in, she certainly hadn’t meant that order for herself, and certainly not this late. She grumbled as she crawled out of bed and started getting dressed. She didn’t have time to shower now, because the shuttle would be landing any minute, and she needed to get to the Grand Hall and give her report to the Supreme Commander.
She strode out into the corridor and almost immediately ran into Xeliana. “Captain!” Xeliana exclaimed. “I was just coming to wake you up!”
“You could have done it a little sooner,” Hana growled. “Now I’m not going to have time to shower before I meet with the Supreme Commander.”
“Oh, the Supreme Commander’s tough enough to handle a little stench,” Xeliana said, giving Hana a playful wink. “Besides, I figured you needed the extra rest.”
“I suppose I did, at that,” Hana said in a resigned tone. “Well, can’t do much about it now. Anything to report?”
“Retico and Moratino are dueling for the title of Most Hungover, but other than that, it’s been pretty quiet this morning,” Xeliana said with a shrug. Hana snorted and smirked at that, and the two of them went into the observation lounge to watch the approach to Numoris.
It was a truly beautiful planet. Zhemeen Fortulis had known what he was doing when he chose this world as the Fangalin capital. It had only been 54 years since Numoris was colonized right under the nose of the Empire, and already it rivaled ancient provinces like Endragar and Parnora for economic and cultural sophistication. But its youth also meant that it still had vast wilderness areas, unlike those older, more densely populated worlds. It really was a fantastic place to call home, and it made Hana’s heart swell with pride every time she saw it.
“Home sweet home,” Xeliana said softly, echoing Hana’s thoughts. “It’s always good to get back.”
“You can say that again, Commander,” Hana said with a smile. She opened her mouth to say more, but was interrupted by a beep from the shuttle’s intercom system.
“Go ahead,” Hana said.
“Captain, I just received an urgent message from the Supreme Commander,” the shuttle’s pilot replied. “He wants you to go meet with him at the Grand Hall as soon as we land.”
“Understood, Ensign,” Hana said, and then looked at Xeliana quizzically.
“What’s that all about?” Xeliana asked, her face as puzzled as Hana’s.
“I don’t know,” Hana muttered. “I always report in with the Supreme Commander when I get back from a mission. He knows that. I don’t know why he would feel the need to remind me.”
“Well, I guess you really don’t have time for a shower now!” Xeliana said with a mischievous grin. Hana gave her a sour look and stuck her tongue out, causing Xeliana to laugh in response.
“Thanks for reminding me,” Hana grumbled.
Hana was ushered into the Supreme Commander’s office without preamble by the Commander’s assistant, a young man by the name of Morken Velenoth. Velenoth was slightly built, with short, dark hair, no facial hair, and penetrating brown eyes. He was quiet and diligent, the very picture of a hardworking administrative assistant. Despite that, there had always been something about Velenoth that Hana didn’t trust. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but it had always seemed as if Velenoth was a little too hardworking. Which didn’t make any sense, so she hadn’t ever bothered to voice her concerns.
The Supreme Commander’s office was as impressive as always, but Hana had spent so much time in it that she barely even noticed the opulence. She approached the Commander’s desk and stood at attention while he continued to peruse the documents on various tablets spread out in front of him. The expression on her face was impassive, but inside she was fairly perturbed at being ignored. For being so desperate to talk to her that he had contacted her shuttle the moment it dropped out of subspace, he sure wasn’t showing a lot of interest in her at the moment.
“I’ll be right with you, Captain,” Dren Calabane said without looking up. Hana’s facial expression didn’t change, but she felt like growling at him. He could at least do her the courtesy of looking at her!
Finally, he set aside the tablet in his hand and smiled up at her. “Welcome back to Crez, Captain Lodimeur,” he said pleasantly. “How was your time on Weblish?”
“Surprisingly productive, Commander,” Hana replied, still standing at attention.
“Indeed?” Calabane said, raising an eyebrow. “I’m glad to hear it. At ease, Captain. Have a seat.” He gestured to one of the two expensive-looking chairs facing his desk, and turned to Velenoth as Hana sat down. “That will be all, Morken. I will contact you when my meeting with Captain Lodimeur is concluded.” Velenoth nodded silently, and then swept out of the room. Calabane gazed somberly at Hana for a few minutes after Velenoth left, and Hana just continued to stare back at him impassively, but she felt her blood beginning to boil.
“Okay, what is this all about!?” Hana finally burst out, unable to keep up her neutral facade any longer. Calabane smirked slightly and leaned back.
“You’re such a…passionate person, Hana,” he said, a twinkle in his eyes. “That’s one of the things I like about you.” Hana just rolled her eyes in response. “Okay, I know how much you hate being strung along, so I’ll knock it off. I have a special mission for you.”
“Oh yeah?” Hana asked, raising an eyebrow. “What Army unit needs us to change their diapers now?”
“Nothing like that,” Calabane said, shaking his head. “I have a mission worthy of your talents.” He paused for a moment, and gave her a hard look. “I need you to be my bodyguard.”
To be continued…