1. I Need You to be Better
Orbit of Jophiel: Before the tragedy
The Hadiyada Aiyaha was the flagship of the Arez armada. It was an enormous vessel with an incredible array of fire power. Due to its large and intimidating size, the Terrans (humans) identified these vessels as juggernaut class. The Arez had their own terminology and naming conventions associated with these massive ships.
Daacad Maisha was 17 summers old. She had short burgundy colored hair and green pupils. She had light red skin. A common complexion among those born into the Buurtan mountain tribes. Daacad had a tattoo on the side of her neck which represented that tribe. She had earned the mark upon completing the trials to adulthood just 1 summer ago.
Daacad ran into the hangar with her helmet tucked beneath her arm. Two women warriors were waiting for her. They were standing next to a ship that resembled a mosquito. They were wearing form fitting space suits identical to the one that Daacad wore. Which included utility belts with holsters for their laser pistols and charge-blades sheathed into scabbards on their backs. The taller of the two had silver colored hair and a long scar which extended from her hairline, across the bridge of her nose, and to the bottom of her cheek. Her tribal mark was on the nape of her neck.
The other woman had piercing golden eyes. Her burgundy hair which was normally long and flowing, was cornrowed. Her hair was styled in this manner to easily adorn a helmet. Like Daacad, her tribal mark was on the side of her neck. “You are late.”
“My apologies mother.” Daacad responded.
The woman widened her eyes at Daacad.
“My apologies, captain.” Daacad corrected herself. Her mother, Rashall Maisha, stepped forward and adjusted Daacad’s gear. “I am quite fine… captain.” Daacad said in an annoyed tone.
“Really?” Rashall scoffed. She tightened a tube that connected to the small tank on the back of Daacad’s suit. “Were you planning on holding your breath in space?”
The silver haired woman, B’clad, let out a chuckle at Daacad’s expense.
Daacad lowered her head in embarrassment, “My apologies, captain.”
Rashall shot Daacad a stern glare, “stop apologizing.” She placed her hands onto Daacad’s shoulders, “I need you to be better. Anything can happen out there. I need to know that you are ready.”
Daacad blinked a few times to keep her eyes from tearing up. She collected herself then responded, “Yes ma’am. I am ready.” She took her place next to B’clad.
Rashall stared her down for a few moments longer. She had to be sure. She didn’t want to lose her eldest daughter by putting her into a situation that she wasn’t ready for. “Good.” She paused for a moment. “The princess is being held on a nearby Terran colony called Lhasa. We get in, we locate her, and we extract her. There is no margin for error. If we are detected, we could start a war.”
Daacad nervously exhaled. Her heart was beating in her ears. She had trained her entire life for this. But being here was terrifying.
B’clad grinned from ear to ear, “woe to anyone who stands in our way!” She elbowed Daacad in the arm. Her excitement was palpable. Daacad was thankful for B’clad’s presence. Her enthusiasm helped to ease the anxiety that Daacad was feeling.
Rashall shook her head, “It is not that type of mission, B’clad. Time is of the essence.” She directed her attention to her daughter. “Daacad?”
“Wait inside the ship. I need a moment to speak with B’clad.”
Daacad wondered what her mother had to say that wasn’t for her ears. “Yes ma’am.” She walked into the small vessel.
Rashall gestured for B’clad to come close. B’clad had a puzzled look on her face as she asked, “what is wrong?”
“I need to speak to you as a friend.” Rashall whispered.
“I do not think Daacad is ready for this mission.”
“You worry over nothing.” B’clad shrugged. “Your daughter is a gifted warrior.”
“She is skilled but… she has trouble making decisions. She needs constant direction.”
B’clad made a face, “I feel you are overthinking this.”
Rashall placed her hand onto B’clad’s shoulder. “Just keep an eye on her and if need be, pick up her slack.”
“You are being silly Rashall but yes. I will keep an eye on her.”
Daacad was eavesdropping on their conversation from just beyond the port. She bit her lip. It upset her that her mother didn’t believe in her. She walked away from the port and took a seat with her arms folded. Soon after Rashall and B’clad entered.
Within the ship was the pilot named Luk and a medicine man named Nodina. Luk smiled at them as they entered his ship. “My favorite ladies,” The jolly older man flirted. “Where may I chaperone you to today?”
“You already know our course, Luk.” Rashall snapped at him. “Prepare the ship for takeoff.” She was in no mood for Luk’s antics. Their mission was a dangerous one and she was worried.
Nodina walked over and placed his hand upon Daacad’s wrist. She snatched her arm away in surprise. He held up his hands, “I need to get a baseline off of your wrist indicator. If you are injured, I may need these readings to save you.”
Daacad reluctantly extended her wrist to him. “My apologies.” She said.
“Stop apologizing.” Rashall and B’clad said in unison. They looked at each other for a moment before they both had a good laugh.
Daacad lowered her head. She was on edge and perceiving threats that didn’t exist.
“First mission?” Nodina asked as he checked the device on her forearm.
Daacad looked at him for some time before answering. “It is none of your concern.”
“My apologies.” He seemed completely serious at first but then he chuckled.
Daacad shook her head when she eventually caught on to his little joke. “By Mars, I am being so ridiculous today.” She looked at Nodina and allowed herself a smile.
They shared this lite moment before Nodina spoke again. “It is okay to be nervous.”
“I am not nervous.” She said quietly. She didn’t want her mother or B’clad to hear her.
“Well, I am.” Nodina whispered back. “I am not leaving the ship but I am still afraid.” Due to the low male population among the Arez, men were discouraged from taking active combat roles within the military. Only men with highly specialized skills were even considered for combat deployment. This was a lingering result of the battle of Jophiel and the civil war which followed 80 years ago. So many men died in battle and there was already a low birthrate for males on Samael.
“Why are you afraid?” Daacad inquired.
“This ship does not have any weapons. Who knows what is waiting for us in Terran space? If the mission fails and we are discovered. Luk has orders to self-destruct.”
“Yet you still volunteered?” She asked.
“It is my duty. I do not want to die but…” He paused. “But what kind of person would I be, if I was unwilling to risk my life when it mattered the most?” He got quiet then smiled again. “We are trying to save princess Adeola’s life. Being here gives me pride.”
Daacad considered his words. “We are not trying to save princess Adeola’s life.” She replied.
“True. You are the ones who are going to…”
“No,” Daacad cut him off. “You misunderstood me. We are not trying to save the princess.” Daacad sounded more confident now. “We are going to save the princess.”
Rashall was listening in on the conversation. Daacad’s newfound determination gave her a sense of relief. She was worried that the mission was too much for the girl. But now she was almost confident that Daacad would be capable of pulling her own weight. She walked into the cockpit and placed her hand onto Luk’s shoulder and said, “What are we waiting for?”
“Nothing at all Captain Maisha,” Luk smiled as he lifted the ship up off of the launch pad. The ship drifted from the hangar and out into space. “Best to take your seats ladies!” He said as the ship moved away from the Hadiyada Aiyaha. “We are a go!” Luk pulled a lever to his right and the ship’s thrusters glowed intensely. The mosquito-like ship rocketed forward at an amazing speed. Their destination, Lhasa.
To be continued in Versatile Layer Book 7: WARCHIEF.
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Thomas K Davis
Author of the Versatile Layer Series