Monday, May 27, 2013
October 6, later
Just another fun-filled day. It turned out the Academy was under attack, just as I’d feared.
I got halfway to Medical before the lockdown announcement came on. When that happened, my Nobek guard picked me up and slung me over his shoulder. Usually I wouldn’t take that too well, but it turned out this was the same guy who’d loaned me his knife when I left the Academy to track down Mom after she’d been kidnapped. So I kind of have trust in him. His name is Anlod, by the way. He’s a little older than Esak and unclanned.
I did yell to him, “Not back to the dorm! I have to be with my mom!”
“I know,” he called back. “Just hang on.”
He did that freaky faster-than-the-eye-can-follow running, smearing my surroundings as we went. How the Kalquorians can do that and not lose their lunch is beyond me. The sight of moving that fast was so nauseating that I had to close my eyes. The sensation wasn’t entirely pleasant either. There were more sounds of blasters firing from a distance away. I was convinced we were going to be shot at any moment.
What would have taken me twenty minutes to walk or six minutes to run, Anlod managed in what must have been seconds. Good grief, those aliens can move. He accompanied me into Medical and waited outside Mom’s door with her bodyguard.
Mom’s one eye was open, and she blinked at me when I came to her side. The left corner of her mouth twitched upward, like she was trying to smile. I guess I was overwhelmed by the sound of fighting, the crazy way I’d gotten to Medical, and my worry over her. I leaned over her, embracing her as best I could without disturbing any of the monitors strapped to her. I wept.
“You know I love you, right?” I whispered in her ear. “We haven’t always been on the best of terms, but I love you no matter what.”
I held her for a bit, feeling how small and frail she felt. How not-Mom she was. When I finally straightened and let her go, her eye had closed. She seemed to be asleep, but she still had that hint of a smile on half her lips. Or maybe that was just wishful thinking on my part.
I spent hours with Mom, sitting there watching her. The blaster fire stopped after only a few minutes. I hoped no one else had gotten killed. At some point Dr. Dad came in. He said all three entrances to the Academy had been attacked this time, and two of the attackers had been injured and brought on site. They were being treated elsewhere in the building and Nang was on his way over to question them.
When I asked about Mom, Dad brightened. “We think she’s as aware of what is happening around her as her dementia allows. She’s in there, Shalia. It’s just a matter of her brain recovering from the shock of the stroke before her body will start responding again. Dr. Ginna thinks the longterm effects will consist of weakness on her right side, perhaps some difficulty walking and using her right hand. He’s also sure that most of that will be reversed once she receives treatment on Kalquor.”
I had to cry some more over that news. I would get Mom back. I was so happy.
Some time after lunch Nang stopped in. He looked tired and angry, but he did his best not to show it, especially since Mom was looking around with her one good eye. I’d begun teasing her about putting an eyepatch on the one that remained stubbornly closed and telling her she was going to be swabbing the decks from now on. One-Eyed Eve, I dubbed her.
Nang behaved with more politeness. “I see you looking at me, Matara,” he said with a smile as he bent over her. “I am so pleased your prognosis is good. We’ll have you up and knitting again very soon. My Imdiko sends his best wishes and wants you to know he’s still enjoying what you taught him. He finds knitting very relaxing and has made some lovely bed covers ... I think you call them afghans? He gives them to all his friends, some of whom also want to learn to knit. I think you've started a craze.”
A Kalquorian knitting circle? I bet Hell just froze over.
I went out into the hall with Nang after he’d finished his pleasantries. “I’ll be right back, Mom,” I promised.
Nang let some of his worries settle over his features once we were out of the room. “You look like you feel terrible,” I told him.
“I do,” he said. “None of our men got killed this time, thank the Mother of All. Unfortunately, the attackers are getting bolder. The men we captured can't really talk, given the injuries that were inflicted on them. My men tell me it looks like this gang is performing a systematic testing of our defenses.”
“What does that mean? That they’re planning on trying to take over the Academy?” I asked.
He nodded. “That also means we haven’t seen all of their offensive capabilities or numbers yet. They’re scouting us, figuring out where any strengths and weaknesses lie.” Nang sighed. “I wish we had more forces coming in sooner.”
If Nang was worried, you know Shalia Monroe shook in her shoes. “What’s the soonest reinforcements arrive?”
“Carriers full of ground troops are still three months away. I can make an appeal to the Atlanta site for help, but they've got their hands full too." He blew out a heavy breath. "When we came after Earth, it was with the intent to hold your people hostage rather than actual occupation. All we were planning on was to intimidate your government into surrendering and ending the war, not having to fight you here on your home turf.”
We’d been over that in preparing Nang’s presentation to the refugees who had made their way to the Academy. Kalquor’s space fleet of destroyers had been the attack force that showed up, while the majority of their ground troops fought ours on colonies and allied worlds.
“Can you hold out for three months?” I was getting really scared.
“That remains to be seen. I’ve sent men out to track down these attackers to wherever they are based. I want to get a head count and find out how well they’re armed.”
I shivered. “It can’t be good. If they’re bold enough to plot taking over the Academy, then they must think they can win.”
Nang reached over to stroke my hair. “Your bodyguards have instructions to evacuate you to a safe place should the situation become dangerous. All Earthers, medical, and support personnel will be taken care of.”
It was good to know he had a contingency plan. It made me relax a little. “I hope it doesn’t come to that,” I told him.
“That makes two of us.” He smiled at me. “I’m sorry I can’t stay and talk more, but there is a lot of work to be done.”
“Of course. I appreciate you stopping in to see Mom.” That had been a really nice gesture since Nang undoubtedly had a full plate without checking on invalids and their frightened daughters.
Nang leaned close and pressed a kiss to my forehead. I let him, needing the comfort though I really don’t want to encourage him to have the wrong ideas. I thought it would be okay this time. I think the commander is capable of simple kindness.
He murmured, “I will always make time for you, my little Shalia.”
With that, Nang left. When I went back to Mom, she was sleeping again. It’s been quiet for the rest of the day, and the lockdown has been lifted. Weln stopped by to check on us, and he says at the end of his shift he’ll sit with Mom while I go get some dinner. He’s due back any time now, so I guess I should sign off for now.