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“I want to make them pay for what they did here, Bella. This is a coward’s way of fighting. Attacking innocent civilians and children? We need to be like that flight that brought down the plane in Pennsylvania.”
“How?” she asked. “I do not want to cause this. I don’t want children to not know of their mothers. I don’t want to tear families apart. I want a diplomatic solution. No more fighting.” Her face scrunched up and she lost it, sobbing against my chest. I held her closely, rocking her in the destruction. I was angry and very confused. Blazing rage also simmered in my veins. I didn’t know how to handle it.
“Captain, I think I found out how the shielding went down. Where the order was sent from,” Victoria said, looking at me. Her eyes were wary.
“The Imperial Palace.”
“That can’t be possible,” Bella said, her eyes narrowing. “Why would the palace remotely disable the shielding around the colony? That makes absolutely no sense.”
“Perhaps someone was pissed off that you were mated to a human,” Commander Braxas answered. “One of Norex’s staff? Or Caius. He’s shady, too. His aura reveals that he’s hiding something. I don’t know what, but it’s not good.”
“Why would they conspire with the Alphans?” Bella growled, her hands balling into rigid fists. I don’t get it. I just don’t. She huffed and walked out of the school, clutching the stuffed animal. I could feel her agony, frustration and confusion. I wanted to make this right, fix it but there was no easy fix.
“Was there anything else on that computer console?” I asked Victoria.
“I got it all, including some vids of the attack. It appeared to be a combination of an attack from orbit and some shuttles using their disruptors,” Victoria explained. “I’ll upload it onto the computer once we get back aboard the Volvo.”
“Thank you, Commander,” I sighed, leaving the school. I stumbled along the ruins, my heart shattering for the pain these people endured during their last moments alive. Several away teams came down, gathering more information and holo-images for their holodeck to peruse on board. I knew that I was going to picking apart the attack and the ruins, trying to find some sort of weakness of the Alphans or answers to give to the Council of Elders.
We were on the surface for two hours. My father came down, shocked at the damage. When we gathered as much information as we could, the away teams transported back up to their vessels. I went in search of my mate, finding her in the rubble of what looked to be a sanctuary or chapel. She was sitting on a crumbling wall, crying as she caressed the singed fur of the stuffed toy. “We’re the last ones on the surface, Bella,” I said. “We need to transport back to the Volvo so we can go back to Forx.”
“We need to perform last rites,” she whispered. “My people…our people need to be ushered into the afterlife.” Her sadness is crippling. She buried her nose in the stuffed toy’s fur, crying quietly. “We need to perform H’aaruune.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“The funeral rite. It releases our souls into the stars,” she said. “It should have been done on the day they all died, but I’d like to do it before sunset on H’nan.” Her blue eyes were dull and her spots were a sickly gray. Her mind was beseeching me, begging me to do this.
“What does this funeral rite entail?” I asked.
“For each life lost, we light a sky lantern and release it. If both ships have as many as they can transport down, it won’t take long. The colonists deserve this respect,” Bella said, overlooking the ruins.
Commander Victoria Braxas