Drop Squad Alpha – Season 2
With a blissful sigh, A’liyah relaxed into the warm, soapy water that filled the grand stone bathtub. She could already feel the knots in her muscles begin to unwind and worried thoughts melt away. Basking in the calming silence, the light floral scent of the soap bubbles, and the pleasurable heat of the water, A’liyah let her eyes close with another sigh. It seemed like a lifetime since she had a warm bubble bath, always having to bathe on the Excalibur, a space station, or at a training camp. She was home now, in the familiar stone tub with her favorite scented soaps: the smell of kalfuraay flowers. As she inhaled the gentle sweetness, her mind drifted back in time, the scent enticing her to remember. She recalled sitting in a small, sunlit field of kalfuraay flowers. A gentle caress on her bare arm, a soft kiss on her cheek. . . .
An abrupt knock on the door of the bathroom snapped A’liyah out of her peaceful reverie. She grumbled in annoyance.
“Yes?” A’liyah answered, trying to keep most of the irritation out of her voice.
“A’liyah?” came a familiar voice from behind the door.
The LT’s face lit up. “Oh! Layali!” she said. “Come in.”
The wooden door swung open gently, and a young Avanii girl with multi-toned red hair stepped into the bathroom. Her green and amber eyes reflected her joy as she shrieked in excitement. “Father just told me that you were here!” She closed the door, and sat on the wide ledge of the stone tub. “Why didn’t you come see your sister?”
A’liyah smiled up at her younger sister. “I’ve had a rough few days. I needed some time to relax.”
Layali’s expression grew a little more serious. “I know. I heard about the ship crash. You have to tell me everything!” She smiled playfully again. “I also heard you came here with that Commander Baldur. Are you two. . .? You know. . .” She raised her gold-red eyebrows suggestively.
“Hey! No, not at all. He’s my commanding officer. We’re teammates, but. . . .” A’liyah trailed off.
“But what?” Layali asked excitedly.
“But we’re just friends,” A’liyah responded, turning away from her sister and reaching for one of the greenish-blue natural bathing sponges. She scrubbed the back of her neck and shoulders. “Can we take about something else?”
The younger Avanii rolled her eyes but nodded. “Sure. Tell me about what happened to you. Father mentioned that your group was convicted of crimes, and stranded on the south continent, of all places.”
“Yeah, it was a bit crazy. After my team and I first landed in our escape pods, we had no idea where we were. I eventually recognized the kavii’lor, and realized we were on Avaniia. I was happy to find that father had survived the crash along with some of the other members of the crew, including our doctor.
“We came across some humans who were there, illegally of course. They had managed to set up a hunting lodge in the sacred forest. They must have had some sort of prohibited jamming device that blocked our satellite surveillance.” A’liyah’s voice lined with disgust as she explained about the humans.
A look of shock seized Layali’s face. “Humans? Hunting? In the forbidden sacred forest?!”
“I know, I had the same reaction,” A’liyah said. “There was no way I was going to let them stay there. We took out their base and rescued some slaves they had there.”
“How did you take out their base?”
A’liyah shrugged nonchalantly. “We blew it up.”
Layali’s mouth dropped open in surprise. “How. . . . what. . . .?” She paused for a few moments to find some words to form a coherent sentence. “You survived a ship crash, fought with some humans, and then destroyed their base.” She shook her head. “I don’t know how you do what you do, sister. I could never be a marine.”
“All in a day’s work,” A’liyah stated, cleaning her feet. “And that’s not even the whole story.”
“What happened next?” Layali asked with rapt attention.
“Well, we knew we needed some evidence to clear our names of the criminal charges. The Excalibur’s A.I. core would have some recorded information about what happened before the ship crashed. Unfortunately, the Excalibur had crashed into a huge river when it hit Avaniia so the part of the ship we needed to get to was underwater by the time be found it.”
Layali looked skeptical. “An A.I. core?”
The LT sighed. “Yes, our ship was equipped with an A.I.”
“Very. But that A.I. might help us to absolve us of the accusations made against my team and I,” A’liyah explained. “But obtaining the A.I. from the Excalibur underwater was not as simple as we thought it might be.”
“Oh, tell me!” Layali said.
“Well, getting into the Excalibur was fairly easy, thanks to the equipment my teammate Jerex Proga saved from the crash. Once inside, we were separated, but managed to get the A.I. core out without too much trouble. As we went to leave the sunken ship, we were confronted by some aquatic creatures that were, well, let’s just say that they were not very friendly.”
The younger Avanii tilted her head to one side. “Oh?”
“Yeah, they tried to eat us,” A’liyah clarified.
“A tense underwater struggle ensued. Not sure if Proga was going to make it. But we fought them off and swam to the safety of the shore.”
“Does your life ever have a dull moment?” Layali questioned.
A’liyah smiled. “Not very many, it would seem.”
“Well, if you were all the way out in that forest, how did you get here?” Layali asked, indicating the family house.
“We had a communications relay that we were trying to set up and get working since the crash. We apparently needed to get to some higher group to set it up where the trees wouldn’t block the signal. We found some ancient ruins in forest that cleared the tree-line. The Commander and Proga set up the relay on top of it and connected to the family frequency.”
“Ancient ruins?” Layali repeated with curiosity.
A’liyah shrugged her shoulders in an effect to ward off a chill that the memory of those forest ruins thrust upon her. “Yeah, I don’t really know anything about them but I got a very strange feeling from that place. I think there’s a good reason that Avanii don’t live in that forest anymore.”
“Hmmm,” Layali commented, contemplating. She then shrugged away the thought smiled. “Hey, I think it’s almost time for dinner. You should get dressed. Let me help you pick something out! Something to impress the commander.”
The elder Avanii rolled her eyes with a sigh. So much for a long and peaceful bath. “Alright, alright,” she said, rising from the water and grabbing a nearby towel.