~Chapter Nine- Parents~
Over the last few months, Nirivo becomes well known throughout the country. I’ve been able to play a pivotal part in every mission I’ve been involved in thanks to the Survival Suit. Other officers in the military have asked if I could be transferred from Ilyana’s squad into theirs, but I’ve refused them each time, I’m happy where I am.
During daily training, Ilyana is pulled away from the squad by Raul. I see him handing her a letter. She comes back to us and stops training to go over the letter.
Corporal Ilyana Ferzo,
We request you and your squad’s assistance for a mission in Joldair. You are to arrive at Joldair Military Base on August 10th for briefing on this mission.
General Lena Veran
“Why would she want our squad?” A squad member asks.
“She doesn’t want us. She wants Nirivo.” Another says, darting their eyes towards me.
“Regardless, we’re going. Colonel Rios has already given us the go ahead.” Ilyana says in a formal manner. She maintains that presence at base, but she drops her guard with me on the dates we’ve been going on lately.
“Does the Colonel know what the mission is?” I ask.
Ilyana maintains her official ways when addressing me, “He’s unsure. The Colonel believes it’s something best kept a secret.”
That evening, our squad boards a train headed eastbound for Joldair. Our squad is given our own private passenger car for the trip. I set the suitcase for Survival Suit underneath my seat, and Ilyana promptly sits next to me, greeting me with a smile. We settle in for the trip. It’s night when the train enters Sotra.
I can see Sotra’s jungles in the distance and I recall our encounter with Miro there. If I had the Survival Suit back then, maybe things would’ve turned out differently... No. I might’ve been able to stand against them, but everyone else would’ve been in danger. The best I could’ve done is defend everyone else while they escaped.
“Juaquin, mind if I ask you something?” Ilyana snaps me out of the trance I’m in. I must’ve been staring out the train’s window for a while at the passing green environ.
“Go ahead,” I say.
“Your father and the Colonel were old friends, right?”
“Yeah, how did you find out about that?” I hadn’t mentioned that to her. I’ve told her my dad was gone, but nothing else about him. Maybe I was afraid to say too much about him for fear of accidentally mentioning Eugenio Jr.
“I looked into it. I’ve always noticed that you and Raul were close, and wanted to find out why.” Ilyana responds, sounding somewhat guilty, “I know you lost your father when you were fairly young.”
“Yeah, the RLA killed him.” I tell her. I knew technically it was Population Control, but I held the RLA at fault. They’re the ones who crippled him. He didn’t want to live after that.
“Is that why you joined the military?” Ilyana asks.
“Yeah. It makes me feel closer to him.” I respond honestly, “Why did you join the military?”
“Population Control is in the right, and the RLA and Miro are trying to ruin that. Everyone will be better off once they’re dealt with.” Ilyana states in a matter of fact way.
I simply nod. I work for the military, but I don’t fully support Population Control. Not now at least. I understand why it’s necessary, but Population Control should change in some way. I’m not sure how, but with so many motivated to fight against it, there have to be changes made to it. I have a hard time believing all of them are extremists. But that probably won’t happen until the fighting is over.
It’s interesting, if dad hadn’t shown me why Population Control was important, I could’ve easily ended up fighting against it after he was gone. Maybe I’d have joined the RLA or Miro.
I wonder what Ilyana’s parents are like. Up until now, we’ve been pretty quiet about each other’s families.
“What about your parents? What are they like?” I ask.
Ilyana’s eyes darted back and forth, “Why do you want to know about that?”
“You asked me about my dad,” I say. She looks shaken by the question, “If it’s not something you want me knowing about, that’s fine.”
Ilyana drew her legs onto her seat, “It’s a long story.”
I smile, “We have a long ride. Just tell me what you’re comfortable with.”
Ilyana nervously began, “Well, I wouldn’t say I have as good of a relationship with my parents as you do with yours. They were kind of deadbeats.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. What did they do?”
“Well, I was the fifth kid in my family. My parents figured out that Population Control won’t touch you if you have children to take care of, so they kept having kids. I guess as a sort of shield. After I was born, Population Control stepped in and made it so they couldn’t have any more children.”
“I’ve never heard of Population Control doing that.”
“It’s pretty rare. They did a short surgery to keep either of my parents from conceiving anymore. My parents had no business having any kids in the first place. That’s why Population Control had to step in. ” Ilyana says surprisingly harshly. “They’re just lazy people who passed that nature onto my siblings. All my siblings never really made much of themselves.”
“You’re not like that! You’re extremely hard working.” I point out. She’s starting to get worked up, I can tell this is a sensitive subject for her.
“Yeah, I saw how the others were turning out and decided I want to be different. I didn’t want to be lazy and not contribute. I wanted to make the world better.” Ilyana explained, “When you have terrible parents like mine, the kids are lucky if they don’t have terrible lives. Some of my siblings have already been taken by Population Control. With the way the others are, I could see the same thing happening to them in a few years. ”
“They could change that if they wanted to. If you have determination, nothing can stop you. You’re proof of that.” I say, repeating my dad’s words to me. Carrying on what he taught made me feel like I was keeping him alive.
“I know, but I doubt they will. They weren’t raised to think like that. My parents never should’ve had kids. I feel like-,” Ilyana pauses for a moment to think, “If taking a life can be a crime, creating life can be as well. In the wrong circumstances.”
“I-I’ve honestly never thought of it that way.” I remark. If not for how mom and dad raised me, who knows how I would’ve turned out. Maybe I would’ve ended up like one of Ilyana’s siblings. Arturo comes to mind. He was never pushed by his stepfather or mother. If he doesn’t change, he might end up the same way.
“Well, I’m glad you’re here anyways.” I say, “Even if you think your parents shouldn’t have had you.”
Ilyana smiles, “Thanks, Juaquin.”
The squad sleeps as the train passes through Sotra into Joldair. When I wake around dawn. Mist covers the landscape, and Mount Rhive is in view to the North. I’ve heard of the mountain range but never saw it before. Ilyana rests her head on my shoulder while she sleeps. I stay as still as possible. We’re still a few hours from our stop and I don’t want to wake her.
We depart from the train station, and our squad takes the nearest tram line to the military base of Joldair. The base has a near identical layout to ours, aside from the view of the mountains to the North. We’re escorted into the administrative district where we find General Lena.
Ilyana returns to her persona of a stoic Corporal and stands at attention, “Corporal Ilyana Ferzo reporting for duty General!”
Lena gives her a confused look, as if she’s trying to remember who she is. Lena sees me and that confusion turns to understanding.
“At ease Corporal. I’m glad you and Juaquin arrived so promptly. You brought the Survival Suit with you, didn’t you?” Lena turns her attention directly to me. In mere moments, she’s confirmed that she just wanted Nirivo. I reveal the white suitcase to her.
“Very good.” Lena grins, “Allow me to brief you on the mission I have in mind. This information isn’t to leave the base, understood?”
“Understood!” The squad answers in unison.
Lena brings us to her quarters and lays out a map of Joldair with markings around Mount Rhive.
“We recently discovered that Eduardo Santoro may be hiding in Mount Rhive. Tomorrow, I plan to lead a thousand soldiers into the mountains to finally end Santoro. His death should be the final nail in the coffin to the Rhiveran Liberation Army. Someone may try to step up and take his place, but that won’t be able to salvage them after this loss.” Lena smirks again and looks to me, “I want Nirivo and his squad to accompany me personally. After your contribution in Uneva, I think you’d be of help near the front lines.”
Lena’s attention had been fixated on me the entire time, hardly looking at Ilyana as she explained her plan, “Well, it’s not my squad. I’ll follow Corporal Ilyana’s lead.” I remark, drawing Lena’s attention to her.
“Yes, yes of course. It sounds like a good plan.” Ilyana stammers out.
Lena turns her attention back to me, “Juaquin, your father was crippled by Santoro himself, wasn’t he? I would like to give you the opportunity to execute him yourself when the time comes.”
I can see what she’s doing. She wanted to credit Nirivo, and by extension the Survival Suit, with the end of the RLA. Maybe to finally fund mass production of more Survival Suits, or perhaps to turn Nirivo into some sort of symbol for the country. Of course she didn’t need me to be there, one person wouldn’t make much difference. But I don’t care what her motives are. If there’s anyone I truly want to kill, it’s the man responsible for crippling my dad. The one truly responsible for his death.
“I’d be honored.” I say lowly. I can see shocked faces from the rest of my squad. Rico and Ilyana, most of all are surprised by my desire for revenge.