25 Jul Chapter 32: Fool
I’m startled to find my face is wet and cold. My eyes snap open and I see I’m sitting in a large concrete room. Standing in front of me is an Oliot soldier holding a metal bucket. When I try to lift my hands to wipe off the water I find I can’t because they’re chained to the wall.
The solider steps back, revealing another man behind him who casually approaches until I can see him clearly. I get a sinking feeling when I recognize who it is—Supreme Commander Trenauk. He’s wearing the same uniform I saw him in before but there are no medals on it this time. There’s a trace of a smile on his face.
“I always knew in my heart this day would come, but I did not think it would be this soon. The glorious day that the illustrious CEO of Mizem Holdings, a traitor guilty of high treason, returns as my prisoner.
“When my soldiers caught sight of you on Sojybri they knew instantly who you were, as you’re quite infamous here. The duplicitous stunt you pulled with the gas substitution assured that. It was inexcusable treachery, of course. But it also had a positive unintended consequence. It was the catalyst that brought us and our enemies the Plutoch together. We agreed to call a historic truce and join forces to fight for a greater glory: the conquest of your home planet Threa. And you are to thank for that.”
All the blood drains from my face.
“You and your kind are weak—a world run by children! Your military is a shell of what it once was. Annexation of your planet will be effortless.
“We have been planning the invasion for a decade. The only thing stopping us was transportation from our world to yours. The Bavul would never allow us to use their shuttles in sufficient capacity to transport an invasion force. But generations of strategic Oliot missionary work has paid off—we have secured Bavul converts who are dedicated to our cause. They have secretly made arrangements for a monumental fleet to be at our disposal.
“Mizem has been very useful to us as well. That corporation you run was a perfect front for smuggling in weapons and supplies. We thank you for that.
“You may be wondering why I’m telling you all of this. The reason is simple: it will be your ultimate punishment. To know that your world will be invaded, that your family and friends will likely die, and that as prisoner here there is nothing you can do to stop it.”
His smile is quite wide now. He does an about-face and walks out. The soldier with the bucket follows him, after which a steel door swings shut with a low thud.
I’m paralyzed by what I’ve just heard. My heart is thumping in my chest but my limbs feel like they’ve stopped working and are made of lead. The horror of what he’s just said is too much for me and I start to panic.
I want so much to believe that he’s lying, but with everything I’ve seen I know deep down that what he says must be true. Thoughts race through my head: can they actually pull off an invasion? What are they going to do to me in here? Will I ever see my friends again? Is my home and everything I’ve known really going to be annihilated?
It’s then I realize I don’t even know if Laik and Rills are still alive. Did Laik venture into the city center when the barges started to drop? Was Rills able to keep the blimp afloat? Did the Oliot abduct them? And what about everyone back home? Do they think I’m dead?
Worse, the fact that this is largely my fault starts to sink in. I was being impulsive and childish, messing with affairs that were way out of my depth. All the signs were there, I was just too stupid to put the puzzle together. The deal between the mob and the Oliot, the smuggled bullets and guns, the fake shuttle (used to replace real ones so the Bavul wouldn’t notice them missing?), the Oliot soldier on the boat… Or Lissie for example: It’s obvious to me now they were taking her off Threa to keep her safe from the upcoming invasion. It was all laid out right in front of me and I couldn’t see it. I was so used to everything coming to me easily I wasn’t paying attention.
I am a fool. And my foolishness is going to cost thousands of people their lives, maybe millions.
Tears start to come. I didn’t know it was possible to feel this bad. I’m sobbing now, my whole body is shaking. I think about Laik, and Rills, about Gian and Marcs. I think about Gavs and Jalea—I’m never going to be able to see them again. If I ever get out of here they’ll already be dead, either by Oliot soldier or their own hand.
I breath in huge gulps. I try to calm myself down but it doesn’t work. My nose is running out of control and I can’t even lift my hands up to wipe it. I pull my knees tight against my chest and rock back and forth. It’s all I can do.