The news that she was being relieved of her command of Starfengt had come as a shock to Hana, but she’d gotten over that shock pretty quickly, as it was abundantly clear that this new role was vitally important for the future of Fangalin, and it was temporary anyway. The members of Starfengt, however, were not taking the news nearly as well.
“You’re leaving us!?” exclaimed Shalaminas Retico in a high-pitched voice. He always sounded like he hadn’t reached puberty when he was upset. Sometimes Hana wondered if maybe he hadn’t reached puberty at all.
“It’s only temporary,” said Hana in a voice that was half reassuring, half exasperated. “As soon as the situation is taken care of, I’ll be back, and everything will be back to normal again.”
“I can’t believe you’re doing this to us,” Vedregela Holomein said in a sullen voice. She had her arms crossed over her chest, and everything about her seemed shrunken, from her stature to the color of her red hair. Her green eyes, however, held a menacing light that made Hana kind of glad she was leaving.
“I’m not doing anything!” Hana replied, the note of exasperation in her voice growing stronger. “These are the Supreme Commander’s orders! If you have a problem with it, then I suggest you head over to the Grand Hall and petition the Supreme Commander directly!”
“So who’s going to be in charge?” asked Velencias Moratino. He seemed outwardly unperturbed by the situation, but there was a tension in the way he was standing that was unusual, and Hana could tell he was as bothered by her leaving as everyone else.
“I already told you, Xeliana is being promoted to Captain and will be the commanding officer of Starfengt,” Hana said, growing more and more exasperated all the time.
“What if I refuse?” Xeliana Merane said in a quiet voice. Hana’s head whipped toward Xeliana, a startled look in her eyes. Xeliana hadn’t said anything yet so far, but she had been radiating hostility and anger ever since Hana had gathered the team.
“Refuse?” Hana barked. “What are you, insane? Who refuses a promotion?” Of all the people in the room, Hana was most upset by Xeliana’s attitude. She had said all those things about being somebody Hana could trust, but now, when Hana needed a shoulder to lean on most, she certainly wasn’t doing a good job of being that friend.
“I don’t have any problem with the promotion,” Xeliana replied. Her voice was level and calm, but her dark eyes were burning. “But we all know that you should be in command of this unit, not me.”
“Well that isn’t an option anymore, is it?” Hana snapped. “Look, I don’t like this anymore than you do, but being in the military isn’t about what we like, is it? Our job is to follow orders, not debate about whether they’re the right thing to do or not!”
“Starfengt isn’t exactly a normal military unit,” Vedregela said, still looking sullen and angry.
“No, it’s not, but we still follow the Supreme Commander’s orders!” Hana exclaimed. Suddenly, she slammed her fist into the wall, making everybody else jump. “Dammit, people! I thought I’d trained you better than this! You’re all acting like whiny babies whose favorite toy has been taken away! Grow up and realize that the universe doesn’t revolve around you!” She glared at everybody in the room in turn, and one by one, they all dropped their eyes and looked ashamed.
“I’m sorry, Captain,” Xeliana said. She was in second-in-command mode now, representing the whole team in front of their captain. “This is just so sudden! I felt like we’d really gotten our groove back on Weblish, and now this! And we don’t even know where you’re being reassigned or what you’re doing! You can’t blame us for being a little frustrated!”
“No, I can’t,” Hana replied, softening a little, “but I can expect you to act like men and women, not like spoiled babies. Trust me, I would love to be able to tell you about my new assignment, not least because I could really use your help. But it’s absolutely top secret. If I told you what I was doing, and that information got back to the wrong ears, it would be disastrous for Fangalin. You know me, guys. You know I wouldn’t keep secrets from you for no good reason. But trust me when I say that the very existence of our people is at stake.”
“Okay, Captain, we know you’re just being reassigned to a cushy desk job at Navy HQ, but if you want us to think you’re doing something super important, we’ll just go along with it,” Moratino said with a wink. Hana glared at him for a moment, and then a grin broke out on her face.
“Oh, is that the game we’re playing, Lieutenant?” Hana said. “Well, so be it. I hope you guys will be okay out there in the field without me there to change your diapers.” Everyone roared with laughter, but none of them was quite as loud as Moratino. There was that odd sense of humor of his again. He loved mocking people, but nobody ever got mad at him about it, because he loved being mocked even more. Hana just shook her head as she watched him doubled over in laughter.
And then, out of nowhere, she started sobbing. Immediately all the laughter in the room ceased, and she was surrounded by 11 people, hugging her and telling her it was going to be okay.
“I know,” she said in response, “I know! I’m just…I’m just going to miss you idiots!” And then she was crying and laughing at the same time, and everybody else was crying and laughing too, and even though nothing was okay, everything was okay. Once upon a time, she had believed she’d lost everything, but she’d gained a family, a family that she knew would never abandon her, no matter how rough things got. And really, how many people could say they even had that much?
To be continued…