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~Chapter Nineteen- The R&D Lab~

~Chapter Nineteen~


~October ~

Lena’s funeral was a solemn affair. Her family sat nearest to her coffin. Lena’s cousin Korina openly wept at the funeral. Her husband, son and brother didn’t fare much better. Only Elian and Victor maintained their composure.

I took the podium at her funeral, “Twenty years ago, I joined the military. Lena joined at the same time and over the years we grew close. Up to her dying day, she supported Population Control and understood why it’s necessary. I was chosen to take over as the Southern General in her stead. I don’t believe myself to be of the same caliber as Lena, but I’ll do all I can to uphold what she stood for. ”

Lena Veran (July 20th, 1981- September 29th, 2020)

Daughter of Elian and Nailah. Sister of Belo and Victor.

Wife of Antonio. Mother to Ivel.

A General dedicated to serving her country

I enter the General’s office in Uneva, meant exclusively for the Southern General of the military. Lena’s belongings were cleared out of the office earlier that week. I sit at her old chair.

If she didn’t go to that conference, she’d still be here. Still be alive. It feels familiar though. Eugenio didn’t have to go on that mission to chase after Santoro 10 years ago either. That mission was meant for me, but Eugenio insisted he take it himself. There was an incessant hunger in him, a desire for grandeur and a chance to prove himself. He was crippled when I saw him next.

Of the three of us, I’m the only one left standing. Lena and Eugenio were truly fearless. Maybe that’s why outlasted them, because I didn’t have the same courage they did. They were better than I’ll ever be. I’m simply the only one left.

But, you’re only given so much time to mourn before the world catches back up with you. With my promotion, several others in Uneva’s base were due their own.

I promoted Ilyana Ferzo to a Lieutenant. “I won’t let you down sir.” She said sternly. She reminds me of myself. I’m glad I can grant her the recognition I wish I was given at that age.

I’m provided an escort wherever I go. I visited the bases of Sotra and Joldair to become familiar with the forces there. After the battle of Mount Rhive, Joldair is still in a weakened state. It will take time to rebuild its strength.

The other Generals of Rhivera ask me to meet them at the Research and Development Facility in the Central Region of Errest. With my escorts, I travel into Errest and find Victor, Felix and Elian in the facility.

“Hello, General Rios.” The kind old General Felix greets me.

“Greeting, Generals.” I nod to them.

Though Felix puts on a content look, I can tell he’s still mourning. He never had any of his own children, and he always treated Lena like a daughter.

They all still seem downtrodden from Lena’s passing, but all deal with it in different ways. Felix seems openly sorrowful. Elian copes by refusing to show any emotion at all. But Victor... It’s like a fire has been stoked in him. A great rage is building. He’s only waiting for the opportunity to let loose.

The staff escorts us through the facility at Victor’s request, the one who called us here. We pass by a room simply called ‘aircraft development’. The prospect of an airborne vehicle seems far-fetched, but I’m aware there are countries out in the world that has managed such technology. Victor has something else in mind to share with us.

“You joined the military at the same time as Lena?” The elderly Elian asks.

“Yeah, we were good friends.” I answer earnestly, “She was an amazing woman.”

Elian silently nods to himself. He may be looking for closure over the loss of his daughter. “Not many can face their end as bravely as her. I always planned that once Population Control took me, that Lena or Victor would take my place as head General.”

Victor glances at his father from the corner of his eye before turning his gaze ahead again.

“I’ll do all I can to make up for her. We have to end all of this fighting.” I respond. Elian nods enthusiastically while refusing to show any sadness.

We stop at a room called ‘military technology’. We’re brought in and see several Indigo Blue Survival Suits with white accents on display in the room. In an enclosed room, a test dummy wearing a Survival Suit is being fired upon, but to no effect.

Victor turned to us, “After Nirivo’s recent efforts, I’ve determined mass production of Survival suits to be worthwhile. I’ve funded a sample size of around 90 Survival Suits, 10 to be distributed to each region. ”

“How did you manage that?” An astonished Elian asked.

“I approached the Emperor for funding. Lena has been pushing for this for a while. Maybe if we listened to her, she’d still be here. They should be finished soon.” Victor answers with anger in his voice. Although, it’s unclear who the anger is directed towards. Maybe himself?

As I look at the row of Survival suits they have prepared, I smile. Juaquin helped make this happen. His efforts at Equality Zone, although incredibly risky, paid off.

“You made good use of my boy back in the Equality Zone, didn’t you?” I ask Felix and Victor.

Victor frowns, “He... acted on his own. We didn’t give the order for him to enter the zone. The official statement however is that we sent him in.”

“He went on his own?” I ask. Victor and Felix simply nod.

The staff of the facility showed off the testing procedure of the Survival Suits before handing them off to each of us. But my mind is on Juaquin; he’s been much more brazen recently. He might be developing that same call to glory that his father had. The exact mindset that got him killed. I need to have a talk with that boy.

When I return to Uneva, I hear that Melissa had dropped by the house while I was gone and left before I returned. She’s still traveling around with that Montoya boy. I don’t appreciate her being gone for so long, but I’m glad to hear she’s alright. Since I’ll be traveling to the other regions often as the new acting General, I know I won’t be home as often. Who knows when I’ll get a chance to see my daughter?

Juaquin is recovering from the injuries he sustained from the Equality Zone incident. If I hadn’t forced him to take time to recuperate, he’d already be back at base. Never one to sit still for too long, I find him doing one arm push-ups in his room. As he hears me climbing the stairs to his room, he clambers into bed.

“I didn’t know exercise helped recoveries.” I chide him.

Juaquin sighs, knowing I caught him. He sits up in bed, “I think I’ve recovered.”

I give him a quick tap on the shoulder and he winces from the pain. I raise my eyebrow at him, “Give it another week and we’ll see.” I sit next to him on the bed, “I heard that you went into the Equality Zone against orders.”

Juaquin’s eyes grow big. He deliberates for a moment before saying, “If I hadn’t, we might not have been able to save the royal family.”

“Maybe. But it’s not up to you to risk your life like that. There’s no need to be a martyr.” I tell him. I want to say ‘you don’t want to end up like your father’, but that feels like too much.

Juaquin nods. Across from his bed is the suitcase holding his Survival Suit. With new soldiers donning Survival suits, he might not feel the need to keep throwing himself headfirst into danger anymore.

I stand from the bed, “Alright then, get some rest.”

Juaquin speaks up before I head back downstairs, “I’ve been thinking lately, what is the military going to do about Miro?”

I turn to him, a little confused by his question, “I mean, they have to be stopped.”

“It’s just that Miro could’ve killed all of us back in the Equality Zone. But he chose to let us live. He’s the one who killed Santoro. He even offered to protect Lena. I don’t know if Miro is all bad.” Juaquin tries to explain.

It was leaked that Miro was the one who killed Santoro, but I didn’t hear about the rest of it. The other Generals must want to keep that information to themselves. “What do you mean he tried to save Lena?”

“When he saw Lena was injured, Miro offered to protect her from the PCC. She refused.”

So very much like Lena. “He might be honorable in some cases, but he’s still wrong. If we can make Miro and his followers understand that we need Population Control, maybe we won’t have to fight.” I explain.

Juaquin pauses and nods, “Alright, ” He still seems to be pondering it.

I smile, “Alright, get some rest. I mean it!” I wag my finger at him as I head back downstairs. I hear Juaquin step out of bed once I’m out of sight.

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