Confusion

This Science Fiction short story is a lead-up to the book titled, Onyalum Wars. The book is part of the Science Fiction Onyalum Series written by NB VanYoos.
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Picture of AcriendHalkmi walked purposefully down the long corridor, her mind swarming with dark thoughts as she contemplated the pending meeting. Quog was not usually an unreasonable leader, but this latest loss was more than even he could rationalize. Something had changed within the Trilliu forces, and it had unraveled their recent attack, turning what should have been an easy subjugation into total defeat.

She pledged to take his abuse quietly, as was her place, but she churned inside from the stupidity he would unleash as he tried to exact revenge for the failure. It was the obstinate side of the Acriend male, and Quog was far from immune to it. He would retaliate with the remnants of his forces, perhaps losing that battle as well. Halkmi understood what was needed, a chance to perform a post-mortem to reveal what had changed so significantly that a formidable Acriend fleet and its pacifier forces could so easily be defeated. The losses were staggering, especially when one realized they’d gone up against a single hive. It was unprecedented and demanded patience and analysis to reveal the change within their enemy.

But Quog would not wait, so she would have to bite her tongue, using her limited persuasion to convince him otherwise. It was hard being a female Acriend, even harder serving in the Aerial forces. But Halkmi was not an ordinary female. Her keen intellect and formidable administrative abilities set her apart from her peers early on. After substantial victories due to her logistical knowledge, she was promoted to a leadership position, unheard of within the Acriend culture. Unfortunately, Quog had never approved of that promotion, viewing it as weakness rather than strength.

But these were not ordinary times, and extraordinary measures were becoming common place as they fought for their Creator, Hammot. The ultimate prize was within their grasp after stomping on the insects across much of the galaxy. They had successfully backed the Trilliu against a wall and were tightening the noose around them, but this latest battle could thwart that success, pushing Acriend forces back, changing the tide in favor of the insects. She was worried, and Quog would be too. The difference was she chose to act rationally.

She was the sitting leader of this fleet, and her decisions would be what Quog would question. He was her superior, a position he constantly reminded her of, but his pacifier forces had been completely wiped out and he would want to know why she had retreated, leaving the planet to the insects. It wasn’t even strategically important, a husk of a world sucked dry by the Acriend and thrown aside in favor of the ongoing conquests. But something had stirred the insects to capture it, and now their defeat of its rightful owner would send shock waves throughout the Acriend forces. Hammot would be unhappy.

Her decision to retreat had been difficult, but the statistics had warranted it. There was little reason to permit the fleet to be destroyed when they didn’t understand what they were up against. Had she stayed, everything could have been lost including the valuable intelligence they had yet to evaluate. Her decision to leave was correct, and she would defend it against Hammot himself. But she knew Quog would push back, viewing the decision as a natural weakness of females.

She tried to calm her herself, picturing her love slaves lathering her in luxurious soaps while pleasuring her during a bath. She imagined them penetrating her, the sensation making her feel weak and vulnerable, building to the crescendo all sought in such endeavors. She felt a deep appreciation for her slaves and treated them remarkably well considering their position within the Acriend culture. She wanted them to appreciate her good graces, sparing her the treachery when in the throes of ecstasy. She knew of many females who had been killed during revolts by the very slaves that pleasured them.

She finally stopped at the door to a large war room now cleared of all personnel except leaders and high ranking administrators. She wouldn’t be the only female in the room, but she would be the only female leader. The males didn’t appreciate this fact and often treated her with disdain, something she grew accustomed to. She stepped forward and the door slid open.

Within seconds of seeing her, Quog sank his barb, setting the tone for the contentious meeting.  “Halkmi, so glad you could take time from your pleasure slaves to fight this little war of ours!”

“No problem,  but it is so hard to find good slaves nowadays after you and your men kill them in your perverse orgies.” She retorted, refusing to back down despite her pledge to remain passive and quiet.

Quog looked angry as his upper lip twitched uncontrollably. She’d seen that before and knew the danger sign. Bite your tongue you idiot! She chastised herself before taking a seat at the right hand side of Quog. She didn’t return his stare while he watched her every move. Instead, she stared at the rest of the people in the room. Her fleet administrator was there, Quagi, a female who coveted Halkmi’s position. Beside her was Kaknok, her fleet leader for Aerial forces. He was a capable leader never questioning her orders, but she doubted he would be on her side today.

Across from them were Quog’s unit  leaders, at least the three who hadn’t been killed in the battle. Quog retained a single female administrator on his staff, Maknoki, and she definitely did not like Halkmi, undoubtedly pulling the party line of her boss. It was the never ending bane of being the sole female leader in a male dominated military. The men didn’t respect her and the women desired her position of power. So much for allies, she was on her own.

Quog refused to take a seat, his overbearing presence a genuine threat. He was a seasoned warrior and had learned some patience through the years. “I’ll let that comment pass, for now.” He said ominously. “First, I want a report of our total losses!”

One by one, his leaders delivered staggering statistics on equipment and soldiers lost during the battle. It had never been close except during their initial landing when they faced only the outer defenses of the Trilliu forces. They had decisively won that battle, the city seemingly theirs for the taking after they softened the inner defenses. But something had happened, and no one was brave enough to venture a guess as to what. The Trilliu had pulled something out of their bag of tricks, and it had been devastating.

Finally, her administrator and aerial leader read off their losses, once again staggering numbers of ships, fighters and resources. She believed it only reinforced her decision to retreat but doubted Quog would view it that way. They had not been prepared for the change in the Trilliu and it had nearly cost them everything. As Kaknok finished his litany, she braced for the attack.

Quog finally sat down, the twitch gone from his lip. “If Hammot were here, he would no doubt kill us all for such a failure! Shall we ask Him to destroy this world for us, our inability to take it an embarrassment to all Acriend?”

It was a rhetorical question and everyone remained silent. Their Creator did not destroy worlds lightly. The long range costs were too difficult to calculate, so Hammot banned such things without consultation. Until now, very few Acriend soldiers would even suggest such a thing. They wanted the pleasure of destroying the enemy themselves and hated such powerful weapons that could take a world down so easily. There was no sport in that, but their latest defeat might change that attitude.

Quog turned to Halkmi, and she knew what was coming. “Why did my fleet turn tail and run like cowards?”

There it was, and he emphasized ‘my’ fleet to ensure everyone understood the pecking order. She was the operational leader of the fleet, but he was the ultimate owner of it, behind Hammot.

She pulled herself together and faced him. “Our operational losses combined with lost resources warranted a speedy retreat before we lost everything.” She said brusquely before taking a breath. “Also, the unknown change in our enemy warranted analysis which might have been impossible had the fleet been destroyed.”

Well, she laid out her reasons hoping it would appease him, but she doubted it. In dire situations like this, he would probably prefer his fleet be destroyed to save face among his peers and Creator. He wasn’t necessarily a vane leader, but this was more than most male Acriend could face without death in battle to retain some form of glory.

“Unacceptable.” His voice was cold and dead pan, and she knew what was coming next. “Ever since your promotion to leadership, a despicable and foolish act, I have had to put up with poor performance, shoddy administration, and insufficient tactical skills. Despite your cowardly retreat, I am surprised you weren’t destroyed.”

None of his accusations were true, of course, but when he was on a rant, it didn’t matter. The reality was she was one of the best fleet leaders the Acriend ever had, and Quog knew it. But he was stinging from their loss and had to take it out on someone. Why not the female leader he did not approve of? She should tread carefully.

He finally turned his gaze to the rest of the leaders. “We will redeem ourselves, destroying those pesky insects on that worthless world, or we will die trying!”

Halkmi groaned inside. Here it was, irrational decisions to go back and face the insects, refusing to admit defeat, even if it cost them everything. When didn’t it cost males everything? They were a brutal race of perverted thugs, and the males lived their lives committing everything they possessed to the pursuit of victory. She wondered what their orgies were really like. Was vanquishing an enemy such an aphrodisiac that they would go to any lengths to achieve it? She would never know, she was a female and the closest she got to an orgy was having more than one slave. But she had to admit, they weren’t the same as the real thing.

Everyone around the table was surprised but remained silent, except her. “Quog, I can’t speak for the others, but I really think we need to analyze our intelligence and understand what happened before we return. Something changed within the Trilliu and they now pose a much greater threat to our forces than before.” She paused as his lip began twitching once more. “Don’t you think Hammot would want to know what has happened? What if the Trilliu have broken the rules of this war?”

He looked ready to burst but she would not avert her gaze. He was a fool and would doom the species before admitting defeat. This was the problem of having such an amazing track record in battle after battle. Soon, you believed you were invincible and could no longer admit or face defeat. He obviously believed their errors had changed the course of the battle, not something the Trilliu had done.

One of his leaders finally spoke. “Our forces are depleted, Quog, perhaps we should wait until we are back to full strength before re-engaging the enemy.”

The leader’s name was Thulk, and he was one of Quog’s most senior leaders, a capable pacifier. But Quog turned on him, his wrath slipping through his control.

“You listen to this female, Thulk? What, you want to mate with her?” His insults had an immediate impact.

“I don’t think rebuilding our forces is agreeing with this female!” Thulk insisted. “I’d rather mate with a Trilliu slug than with her.”

“I disagree.” Quog said in a tone that meant he dared anyone to challenge his decision. “You have all failed me and our Creator, and now you gather together to escape your just punishment for that failure. And, Thulk, your mating wishes will come true after you take that damned insect city!”

She knew she would regret it, but she couldn’t let Thulk be bombarded by Quog’s anger at her. “He is right and not because it agrees with what I am saying.”

Quog spun back to her, his lip quivering as the anger pumped blood to his muscles. There was not fight or flight response in the Acriend, only fight. “Perhaps we should all leave so you and Thulk can mate to produce more bastards that don’t listen to their superiors!” He was shouting now. “Damn you, bitch, shut up, I will decide what we will do!”

She couldn’t stop herself. Maybe it had been building for too many years and needed to be released, or maybe she had become too much like the males after being a leader for so long. Either way, she refused to back down in the face of his fury. “No, Quog, you shut up you stupid male, you’ll kill us all!”

His speed and dexterity was so fast, she saw only a blur before she was down on her back. Even his ferocious roar had been silent during the surprise from the attack. Another part of her admired his prowess considering his gray fur. Quog was truly their leader no matter how stupid he was. She lay on the floor bleeding, the old warrior knowing exactly how to defeat the formidable Acriend body. The only female leader had been removed from office, and considering how Quog would spin this, she doubted any other would rise to such prominence.

But as the last vestiges of her life drained away, she knew none of those politics really mattered. Something had changed in the Trilliu, and until they figured it out, the Acriend would be thrown into chaotic confusion. Her vision began to fade, and she mourned the fact she had never mated with a male. Despite dying at the hands of one, she’d always harbored those feelings. The truth was she really had wanted to mate with a fine warrior like Thulk, and she was far better than a Trilliu slug.

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