Monday, July 1, 2013
It’s been pretty quiet lately, so I wasn’t surprised that Nang commed me yesterday, asking me to meet with him concerning his presentation. With Mom and Esak both doing pretty well, I decided to make the meeting. Since I didn’t have Nang-repellent, I was determined to keep as much physical distance between us as possible while we were together. What’s that quote about the road to hell being paved with good intentions? Hear me sigh.
When I showed up, I was surprised to see Matt King in the office with the commander. Not expecting Nang to have a visitor, I had breezed into his office like I owned it. I was quickly stammering my apologies and trying to back out when I realized someone was sitting across from Nang at his desk.
“No, come in Shalia,” Nang invited. “Mr. King—”
“Matt,” the Earther spokesman insisted.
“Yes, Matt dropped by to offer his assistance on this issue with the Earther attacks. I’d like your opinion on the suggestion he gave.”
I love it when my thoughts matter to others. Particularly men, the gender that ruled pre-Armageddon Earth. Sure, it’s an ego stroke, but having been a member of the silent half for so long, it means something to me.
“Any ideas that will stop this nightmare are worthwhile,” I agreed. “What were your thoughts?”
Matt smiled. “Well, from what Commander Nang has told me, the group coming against the Academy has splintered into several different pieces, making it more difficult for his men to track down.”
I nodded. The people who’d made the huge encampment Esak and his squad had found had broken up into at least a dozen smaller groups. Maybe more.
“Those smaller groups are staying on the move, deliberately leaving false trails to confuse us,” Nang said. “We have yet to catch up to even one. I’ve put in for heat-signature devices to be installed on our shuttles, but it’s hard to get the equipment in a timely manner. Add to that, this area is not deemed one of the top priorities due to the smaller population here. It could be weeks before my request is honored.”
“Too bad,” I murmured. “That would help find survivors who need the most help too.”
Matt nodded his agreement. “I admit I’m no tactical expert, but the Kalquorians’ resources are being stretched thin what with trying to defend the Academy and attempting to catch our assailants. I would guess the smaller groups are staying in contact with other. I’m betting there is one person or a small group of men leading this effort.”
“Sounds right to me,” I agreed.
“So my thought is that the Kalquorians stop trying to catch these smaller groups. Fall back, shore up the Academy’s defenses, and give the larger group a chance to coalesce once more. I’m sure they will do so. Then, when they can be located, hit them with that stun pulse or whatever you call it, and take out the whole bunch in one fell swoop.”
I’m no tactician either, but I had my reservations about Matt’s suggestion. “How will we know when they’ve pulled back together?”
Matt said, “Keep small patrols going at maybe a ten-mile radius around the Academy. I mean, there was no evidence of the attackers having shuttles other than that one they crashed through the main gate, right? They’d have to come in close to launch a full-scale attack in that case. Someone is bound to stumble over their base of operations.”
“It’s not a bad idea,” Nang said. “Although I’d prefer a larger patrol area, say twenty, twenty-five miles. You dealt with government and their training, Shalia. We have indications there are military and enforcement skills among those attackers. Is it likely they would band together in one large force again?”
I turned it over in my mind. “I think they’re more likely to surround us if they’re planning to do a full-on attack. But before they do that, they probably would get together first. They’ll probably pool the resources they have like supplies and arms and make sure everyone has what they need to carry out their missions.”
I really hated the idea of that group pulling together again. It worried me a lot, but since I knew it worried Nang too, I didn’t say anything.
Nang nodded. “I’ll bring the possibilities up with my staff. We are being run ragged by the attackers’ hit and run tactics, plus that they’ve gone in so many different directions. Falling back to the Academy is probably our best bet.” He smiled at Matt. “Thank you so much for offering your insights, Mister, ah, Matt.”
“Just trying to get off this planet in one piece, as I’m sure you’d like to do as well.” Matt stood. “I’ll get out of your way now. First, how is Eve doing? I meant to check on her earlier than this, but with the last attack, I’ve had a lot of hysterics to deal with from our people.”
I told him, “She’s really doing well. She talks a little more every day and is recovering movement slowly but surely.”
“Excellent. I figured she must be doing well for you to not be at her side.”
“They prefer I don’t hang over her during her therapy because I distract her. Plus Commander Nang is getting his presentation to our people together, so I’m taking the opportunity to help as much as I can.”
Matt nodded to Nang. “I am looking forward to hearing it. The commander and I have talked about the best way to present his information so Earthers will be more likely to hear his message with as few pre-judgments as possible.”
“Your assistance has been invaluable,” Nang told him.
They shook hands, and Matt left. I sat in my chair, nibbling my lower lip and worrying. Which meant I forgot to keep Nang at a distance.
The door closed behind Matt, and Nang lost no time getting right behind me and rubbing my shoulders. I wanted to melt into a puddle of goo under those strong, kneading hands. It felt good. I was determined to not give Nang any advantage over me however. I stood up and stepped away so that I was beyond arm’s length from the commander.
That self-satisfied smirk crawled over his face, but Nang didn’t push the issue. “So, Shalia. Now that we’re alone, what did you really think about Matt’s suggestion?” Nang asked.
I blew out a breath. “I don’t know. I don’t like the idea of that bunch getting back together. To be honest, I’d rather you kept them on the run and scattered so they can’t deal out more damage than they’re already capable.”
He nodded. “It worries me too. I may have no choice, however. What I didn’t mention in front of Mr. King is we just don’t have enough men to continue tracking in every direction. My security commanders tell me the men are demoralized by their inability to catch these murderers, along with the deaths that have occurred. We need a new strategy.”
“And more men,” I pointed out.
Nang sighed. “That won’t happen nearly soon enough. You Earthers are a difficult lot to convince we have your best interests at heart.” His brow lifted to let me know he wasn’t discussing just resistance to being rescued.
I rolled my eyes at him. “Best interests, huh? You just want to have sex.”
“That too. Should I get on my knees and beg you, Shalia? Is that what you want?”
He started to stalk towards me, that dangerous look in his eyes that terrifies and titillates all at once. I got moving, keeping his desk between us.
I was brutally honest with him. “Look Nang, I think I might be in love with Dusa and Esak. Probably. I may not be ready to play house with them yet, but the feelings are there.”
That earned me a glower. Nang’s mouth opened to speak, and I held out my hand to keep him from doing so.
I hurriedly explained, “I have no intention of joining their clan at this time, even if the rules said I could. Not only am I not ready, I don’t think they are either. Especially under these conditions, with danger making the situation a little more intense than it normally would be. Plus I need to make Mom my priority. She’s helpless and I have to take care of her.”
“So what does it mean, Shalia?” Nang’s voice was light, but he was still slowly following me. His eyes were riveted, predator sighting on prey.
I didn’t mince words. “It means that the little bit of time I have left on Earth, I wish to spend with Dusa and Esak. I want every second I can get to enjoy what might have been before I have to leave them behind for probably forever.”
Nayun’s anti-depressant hadn’t just gotten me out of the dumps. It had given me clarity to figure out just how I needed to deal with my near future. I knew clanning with my sweethearts was an impossibility given all the obstacles. It’s also not the right thing for any of us at this point. It makes me sad on one hand, but I can’t tell you what a relief it’s been since I came to this realization. I feel like a huge weight has come off of me.
My calm assurance leant firmness to my tone, letting Nang know this was non-negotiable. He apparently heard it, because he stopped coming after me.
“I see.” He regarded me silently for long enough that I started to fidget under that stare. I couldn’t tell you what was going on in his mind.
At last he turned and went to the low table where his computer waited. “Shall we go over my presentation?” he asked, not looking at me.
“Sure.” I approached carefully, not believing Nang was giving up that easily. But he made no move towards me as I sat on a seat cushion across the table from him. Nor did he say or even look at me with anything but respectful politeness for the rest of our meeting as we put the finishing touches on his upcoming speech.
Do I dare feel relief? I think Nang has finally gotten the message. It sure as hell took him long enough.