Darion was assisting Beilon with a report for Prime Minister Kebehde. They would be providing him information about the status of the war with Ersha. The two had met earlier that day with the other senior members of the VSB Security Council. Councilors Thane and Elloy had provided their views about the nation’s next steps. Beilon and Darion were now finalizing the recommendations.
Darion shook his head, still feeling doubtful about portions of the suggested course. A main point of disagreement during the earlier meeting was about how to provide aid, especially to the areas of Ersha that Vaironia had already captured.
“Don’t we need to allocate more resources?” Darion asked. “We’ve been fighting this latest set of battles for six months.”
“It’s a precarious balance,” Beilon reminded him. “We want the Ershan civilians to get provisions. On the other hand, we don’t want those who are revolting to seize the supplies.”
“And Vaironians are growing restless too. I think many had it in their heads this would be a relatively short and decisive war.”
“In all honesty, we’ve had a sixty-year war with some shaky peace.”
“Is the PM truly ready to take things to the next level?” Darion asked.
“Yes. He’s tired of holding back. He’ll be ordering the Elite Krezkas to go full-force.”
While Darion realized the benefits of using the Krezkas to their maximum capacity, nervousness rose in his stomach. He knew Tolrek would enjoy the increase in latitude; he also understood his lover would be in greater danger.
Beilon coughed pointedly, bringing Darion out of his musings.
“Keep your head focused,” he told the negotiator. “If we follow our next strategies correctly, we can save many lives.”
“Yes sir. I understand.”
“Go home and get some rest. I’ll see you early in the morning. We’ll brief the Prime Minister at 7 am sharp.”
Darion’s thoughts were with Tolrek, as he stared up at the night sky. Thousands of miles away, in parts that were still Ershan territory, Tolrek was fighting. Darion understood the consequences of war. With his background, he’d been raised to see the value of conflict. He’d also been taught how to respect it, to not take it lightly, while sending others into harm’s way. Never before had the lessons been at the forefront of his mind.
He knew Tolrek was more than capable of protecting himself and those under his command. Still, that didn’t stop him from continuing to worry. He hoped that the surge of Elite Krezka pilots, which the PM had ordered, would soon end the war. It had been two months since the PM had taken that action. Ersha remained on its feet, and in some parts of the land, it had regained territory. Those successes were ultimately small but Ersha was proving to be more tenacious than Vaironian had expected. While the rival nation was fighting with the desperation of knowing it would lose, and quite possibility in the near future, that didn’t make it any less dangerous.
Sighing, Darion prepared for bed, hoping that sleep would allow him to get a break from the chaos. Even in his dreams, thoughts of the war stayed with him. When he awoke the next morning, he planned to follow his usual schedule, trying to keep as much normalcy in his life.
Approximately an hour after his slumber had ended, he left his home to go to the VSB. As he was walking into the building, he heard the unmistakable sound of incoming missiles. Two missiles hit the VSB, reducing the front of the building to rubble. Various individuals who had also been on their way to work either immediately lost their lives or were severely injured.
The explosions sent Darion hurling into the air. The force of the blast broke his arms and legs. He hit a barrier, which broke his back, shattering several vertebrae in the center of his spine. Shrapnel from different objects imbedded itself in various parts of his chest. Darion passed out from the pain, his last thought being that he hoped Tolrek was safe.
Darion didn’t know how much time had passed, when he opened his eyes again. He was lying in a state-of-the-art cylindrical regeneration tank. The best machines and a medical staff from Tildar had been brought to Vaironia, in order to heal him.
His body, from the neck down, was cushion by a thick layer of gel. The purpose was to keep him immobile while his various broken bones were knitting back together. The machine he was in accelerated the healing process. It handled more advanced injuries than the QikMed machines. He was thankful for the medication flowing through his body, which took away much of the pain. It was several moments before he realized he had a visitor.
When his mother realized he had awakened, she quickly moved closer to the tank. She put her hands to the side of it and smiled down at him. She ached to see her son immobilized. When she’d heard what happened to Darion, she’d frozen and looked at her husband, anguish in her eyes.
“Son, you’ll be alright,” Saha soothed him.
Her voice broke, as she thought of the past week. She’d been by her son’s side, trying to remain positive, even as he’d flat-lined and the doctors had brought him back twice.
She called for his doctors, who rushed in to examine him. When they were assured he was more stable than in previous days, they allowed him to speak with his mother.
“Mother, it’s so good to see you,” Darion told her, his voice parched.
“Do you need anything?”
“No, other than to wake up from this horrible dream,” Darion responded. “Do we know who did this?”
“Not yet but we have our suspicions. It’s possible it was internal. Some of the factions against the Prime Minister might have taken advantage of the conflict with Ersha. Your father and siblings are out gathering contacts. Rest assured; everyone involved with hurting you will pay.”
“Is the war still happening?” he asked his mother.
“Yes but we are close to taking the capital. After that, what remains of the Ershan government has no options but to surrender.”
“Has word reached the front about the attack on the VSB?”
“Yes. The PM has told the Krezkas to increase their assault. You, however, don’t need to worry about these matters. Focus on healing.”
“Do you think Tolrek knows what happened to me?”
“Yes. We made sure he was informed.”
“I wish no one had told him,” Darion responded, his voice trembling. “I don’t want him thinking of me like this.”
“I don’t believe he would forgive anyone who kept this kind of information from him.”
“I can see you’re tired,” Saha stated. “Our short conversation has taxed you. Get some more rest.”
“I love you, Darion,” she said, as she touched her hand to the regeneration tank again.
“I love you too.”
“Leave me with him,” Beilon instructed the medical staff.
Darion’s haggard appearance haunted the official.
“How are you feeling?” he asked.
“Like I’ve been in an explosion,” Darion responded coldly. “Isn’t technology grand? Nanobots have been knitting me back together.”
“I understand that you are furious.”
“You have no idea. How fortunate for you that I’m confined in this regeneration tank…”
“Darion, you should understand that some things are not preventable.”
“I fully believe Meric is behind this. If he’s not, he’s aware of who is. That’s just the type of information he had at his disposal. Have you spoken to him?”
“He has left the planet. He disappeared a few hours after the explosion.”
“I would hope that I don’t have to tell you how that looks,” Darion said, his voice laced with disrespect.
“Of course not! Now, I understand you’re angry but there’s no need for insubordination. I still value you and—”
“I resign my post. Vaironia and Ersha can both rot for all I care.”
“Now Darion, don’t be hasty. I—”
“Shield close,” Darion said, activating the barrier which made the glass opaque and effectively shut out the official.
Beilon cursed, as he realized all of his long-terms plans were steadily unraveling. As he knew Darion would no longer speak to him, at least not for the rest of the day, his only option was to leave.
When Beilon returned to his office, there were two individuals waiting for him. He had been expecting Ryam and Saha’s visit. Even so, he had trouble meeting the eyes of the former Behadan, as well as those of the former ambassador. He greeted them, motioning for each of them to have a seat. Both of them remained standing.
“I came to personally deliver this message from Behadan Kyniska,” Ryam began. “Every single being responsible for the injury of my son will atone. Those who engineered this travesty will lose their lives. There is nothing you can do to stop it. You know how fiercely Tildaris protect each other. I am keeping Ashrom and Jarrick off this planet because I know how they will act. I have ordered Aleena to give you time to work to find the ones responsible. My wife has requested that I restrain myself. All of these limitations will run their course in the very near future. After that, my resources will come down on your nation. Behadan Kyniska has assured me that she will send Tildari forces to this planet.”
“In a matter of days, Vaironia and Ersha could become Tildari territories,” Saha added. “Make no mistake, Beilon. The Tildari Empire is hungry. It has had its eyes on other lands but Kyniska now looks squarely at this planet.”
Beilon calculated that even with just a quarter of its armed forces, Tildar could occupy most of the planet. Even more precarious, the most advanced technology on the planet had come from Tildar. He also knew that the technology was ten years behind what Tildar truly had.
“Clearly you understand the severity of the situation,” Ryam told him.
“Of course!” he exclaimed, his usual composure gone. “Darion is like a son to me.”
“And he is actually a son to us!” Saha flared.
“If you let him be a casualty of your maneuverings, I will choke the life out of you.” Ryam’s voice was calm, eerily in contrast with the violence of his words.
Ryam motioned to his wife. They left Beilon’s office, neither sparing another glance at him.
When they exited his office, he slumped in his chair. He’d been trying to keep his remorse about Darion at bay. However, the gravity of the conversation and his recent visit with Darion left him drained. He rested his head in his hands, overwhelmed by the circumstances.
“Under Tildari law, it is the lover’s right to seek redress,” Ryam explained to Tolrek. “Is your status with Darion what I think it is? If not, family members will handle this.”
The former Behadan had contacted Tolrek during one of the short breaks of the conflict. He had planned to give Tolrek an update on Darion’s progress, as well as to state his main goal for the communication. He wanted to gain retribution against those who had almost killed his son.
“I claim first rights without reservation,” Tolrek responded. “May I use your information network?”
“Yes. And make sure neither Ashrom nor Aleena have to intervene. As his siblings, they will be particularly merciless. It is how they were raised. They are children of two cultures; they needed to be more resilient than most youngsters. I think, given your struggles to find out who you are, you’d understand some of the conflict they’ve experienced. I do not expect you to fail me.”
“I will not,” Tolrek assured him.
“Good. Then I am putting my trust in you.”
“Is Darion still in a great deal of pain?” Tolrek asked.
“Yes but he’s managing the best that he can.”
“How much longer does he have in the machine?”
“Another two weeks. We’re the most concerned about the repairs to his spinal column. Six of his vertebrae were completely destroyed. He’s being given artificial ones and it’s quite an excruciating process. It will take him some time to adjust.”
“Will you tell him…” Tolrek’s voice trailed off.
“What is it?”
“Nothing,” Tolrek murmured. “I look forward to this conflict ending soon.”