Elgana surveyed the lush, verdant landscape that was covered in green and interspersed irregularly with trees and plants of varying sizes. At the present it seemed tranquil, serene, and an odd place in which to fight a war. But the planet Sephiscon, despite its vast and beautiful foliage, was exactly where her people, the Eutrians, were now at war with the Talons, the natives of Sephiscon. The Talon civilization had several rich, fabulous cities that they had built up throughout many parts of the sphere; they also had a wealth of resources, minerals, and other items that the Eutrians took an interest to. In only a matter of time, she hoped, the Talons would fall and her people would be victorious.
The Eutrians were natives of Earth, but they were not human and lived their lives excluded from human civilization on uncharted islands in the middle of the ocean. In some aspects of their civilization they were fairly primitive, making buildings still primarily of stone, using weapons of wood and crude metal. Some of their technology, however, was quite advanced, more so than that of the humans. Their transportation, for example, resembled that of something from a futuristic story and was quite capable of transporting mass numbers of Eutrians from Earth to other faraway planets, such as Sephiscon. The Eutrians had first come to Sephiscon about a year ago on an exploratory mission; seeking to claim more land for themselves and having immediately developed hostile relations with the Talons, more Eutrians had been sent to the planet and the two races had gone to war.
So that's where they were now. Elgana had been made a captain in the Eutrian army and was currently on Sephiscon, guarding the primary base that her people had set up. As far as they knew, the Talon were unaware of the location of their base, but one never knew when certain information would accidentally leak out and a surprise attack would come; therefore, as a precautionary measure, the base had to be guarded at all times. Elgana had been standing on watch for several hours without incident, and it was past time for the next watchman to come and relieve her of her shift. She growled lowly in frustration. Where was Chent?
"Anything to report?" Chent asked from behind her, as if in response to her unspoken query.
She turned around to see Chent, his gray corporal's tunic concealing most of the orange flesh that was characteristic to every male of their species. His bright blue hair was close-cut and three of his four arms held long, pointed spears. Having grown tired of holding her post, Chent was a welcome sight. "No, Chent, nothing to report," Elgana answered. "What took you so long?"
"I apologize for my tardiness; it was my responsibility to see to the disposal of enemy bodies and the task took longer than I had anticipated. We had thirty-eight this cycle."
Elgana nodded in acknowledgement. Yes, that task certainly was of more importance than her continued comfort and desire to be relived of her post. A startling truth that the Eutrians had realized soon after war first broke out was that the Talons possessed an uncanny natural ability: even though they died, they could be resurrected if touched by another member of their species. This would seem to give the Talons an obvious upper hand, but the Eutrians had figured out a way around it. Whenever a battle took place between the two races, some soldiers would be assigned specifically to pick up bodies of fallen Talons and bring them back to the Eutrian base before any other Talon could revive them. The bodies were kept in complete isolation at the base for a while, but whenever enough bodies were collected or a few weeks had gone by, one of the Eutrians would fly somewhere outside of Sephiscon's orbit and release the bodies in deep space, where they would never again feel the spark of life. Of course the Eutrians could not get to all the slain Talons in time and despite their best efforts, some were indeed revived after they were killed. Even so, their system had certainly helped to even the odds.
"And were you successful, Corporal?" Elgana asked.
"I was, Captain," Chent answered.
"Well done." Noting the spears he carried, she added, "I see you're well prepared to take guard duty today."
"As always, Captain."
"Very good. Carry on, then." With these words Elgana departed from her post but did not retreat into the base. Under normal circumstances procedure would have required her to return to base for the night, but not tonight. Tonight, Elgana had another mission—a secret mission that did not belong to the entire Eutrian army but was hers alone. Trying her best to be stealthy, even though it was not one of the Eutrians' strong suits, she made her way along the side of the building to a small hovercraft which she had used so many times that it had unofficially become her own. Quickly hopping into the craft and starting it up, she used two of her arms to steer and rested the other two on her lap, heading towards her designated meeting place.
She navigated skillfully through the complex labyrinth of trees and vines, but did so unconsciously, the task so familiar that it required little attention for her. Instead, her thoughts were focused on one thing—and one person—only. As she approached her destination, his figure became visible, and grew larger in perspective. His shape was tall and imposing, blue in both skin and hair, but wrapped in a contrasting cloak of resplendent red, which the Talons used to signify authority and importance. She landed the hovercraft and ran to him; noticing her and responding with joy, he ran to her as well. The two met together in sweet embrace.
"Elgana," the Talon sergeant whispered endearingly.
"Thor," she replied as her four arms covered him. "Here I am; now we are together again."
Even if you looked at them without knowing that their two peoples were at war with each other, the sight was quite a contrast. Thor the Talon sergeant was fairly humanoid with a large figure and blue all around, while Elgana, the Eutrian captain who was presently locked in his embrace, had violet skin, bright yellow hair, and a more slender frame with twice as many arms. The two had met once by chance while off duty, had become intrigued with each other, and had been seeing each other sporadically since. Of course if it had been publicly known that they were in love, things would never have worked out; fortunately, the secret had been kept safe from other Talon officials.
"I've missed you, Elgana," Thor said softly.
"How long has it been since we were last together?" she asked, trying to remember. "Two weeks? Three?"
"Too long," Thor replied. The conversation paused for a moment, and then he added, "I love you."
"I know," she answered. "I…I care about you, too."
Thor grimaced noticeably. When they had first met a few months ago, everything that Elgana had said and done when they were together had made it seem that she loved him. Since then, however, she had admitted to having guilt at living a secret life and had said that she was not sure whether she could ever love someone with whom her people were at war. These words had hurt, but Thor and Elgana had continued to meet together even so, still apparently caring greatly for each other even if they could not be in love. Each time they met like this Thor treasured the time they had together but also desperately wished that Elgana would make up her mind and that she would, indeed, say she loved him. Perhaps tonight…
"We should keep
things short tonight," Elgana said. "You know it's not safe for
us to be near each other."
Thor sighed. As much as he hated it, he knew she was right. "I would love to spend the whole night here with you," he said. "But you're right—it's not safe. Don't think that just because I know I love you, I don't have the same conflicts you do about loving someone who is an enemy to my people. Every time I come here with you I feel ashamed because I'm being disloyal to the Talons…but I can't stay away from you, because then I would be disloyal to my love for you."
"I've felt the same way," she commented, placing a hand on his shoulder. "But don't worry. I know where my loyalties lie, and I won't let anything stand in the way. I'll do whatever is necessary."
"Then…you do love me?"
"I…I can't say," she uttered with apparent difficulty.
They were both silent for a few moments; Thor wasn't sure what to say after that sort of letdown. But he decided not to dwell on it and to change the subject—there was something else he needed to ask her, anyway.
"Elgana, I need to tell you something," Thor began.
"The generals have seen my progress in battle, and they think I'm a very skilled warrior. I have a lot of potential, they've said. They're thinking of promoting me, but I've got to do something to show that I'm really as good as they think I am."
"I can see this is going somewhere," Elgana told him. "What are you saying?"
"Elgana, for me to get promoted to commander, I've got to somehow uncover the Eutrian storehouse of deceased Talon bodies."
She could sense the sincerity in his voice. This was partially for him, but his motives were largely for the good of his own people. It almost saddened her that she wouldn't be able to do anything for him.
"Thor, I'm sorry, but--"
Surprisingly, she heard him raise his voice. He rarely did it, but she could tell he was quite passionate about this. "Elgana, every time I go out into battle, I see my people, my brothers and sisters, mercilessly slain right in front of me. I see their bodies lifeless on the ground, and how I wish I could resurrect them! I run to a fallen body, but I don't make it in time—your people are faster, and my comrade's body, the body that I could revive, is taken away. This has happened so many times…" His mental defenses were slowly giving way to oncoming tears. "And every time, not being able to help them, I only wish that I could just die with them."
"I'm so sorry," Elgana whispered gently. "I can't imagine how unbearable that must be. And I truly wish I could help, but I wouldn't be able to. You see, the Eutrian commanders don't let just anyone go and dispose of the bodies. I've never had to do it before. I don't rank high enough for such an important duty. Our base is a large building, and I don't know where they're kept…" She broke off, regained her composure, and finished. "I'm sorry I can't help."
"Could you look for them, at least?" he entreated. "Find out somehow? For me?"
"I will," she promised. A tacit understanding passed between them as they stood there, alone in one of Sephiscon's leafy forests. Finally, Elgana said, "I should go back."
"Yes," Thor agreed. "We both should." They held each other once more, which for them transcended any need for a spoken 'goodbye'. Then each one retreated back towards their separate vehicles.
"We'll meet again tomorrow night," Elgana called to Thor as she was getting into her hovercraft. "Then I'll let you know how I truly feel."
Before the excited Thor could respond, she was flying off.
Elgana's day was quite uneventful compared to the events of last night and what she anticipated for the next night. She was not on active duty so she stayed at the Eutrian base helping with various tasks. She served her few hours on guard duty, made some repairs to faulty transport vehicles, and even had a little bit of free time to herself in which she would read for leisure and try to forget that they were not at home on Earth but on Sephiscon and in the midst of a war. Still, though she tried to ignore the difficult reality, it was too great a notion to push from her mind and she was continually reminded not only of the war but of the meeting with Thor that had been arranged for that night. Once all her work was complete and the day shifted into night, she was relieved of her guard post and excitedly prepared to be reunited with Thor.
She had told him as she left the night before that she would let him know how she felt, and she still had every intention of doing that. In truth she had known long before, but had never been able to tell him. However, it was time for secrecy to end. She would make her move tonight. Discreetly slipping something into the back of her tunic, she made sure she was not being followed, slipped once again into the hovercraft, and sped onward to Thor.
"Elgana!" he cried out when she arrived. "I'm so glad to see you again!"
"I'm glad to see you, too," she told him. "I know we just saw each other last night, but I've been looking forward to this and thinking about you all day."
"You've been thinking about me all day?" Thor asked excitedly. "I can't get you off my mind! Remember what you told me as we were leaving last night? You said--"
"Yes, Thor, I remember what I said," she answered. "And I promise I will tell you." Her heart began to beat faster. "But first…hug me."
"Hug you?" he asked.
"Yes," she answered. "Hug me. Like we did last night. Like we've always done before. I want us to be in each other's arms when I tell you how I feel."
Thor obeyed gladly, his heart jumping with anticipation of what her words had implied. He held Elgana's middle with his two arms and closed his eyes, relishing the sensation of momentary blissfulness. She returned the hug with three of her four arms; the other one was working carefully to get hold of the spear she had hidden in her tunic without Thor noticing. The task wasn't difficult; he was distracted, closing his eyes and thinking thoughts of love. The spear was in her hand. In one swift motion, before Thor could realize what was happening, she plunged the deadly point deep into his chest. The blade pierced his skin and Thor fell to the ground, screaming in pain.
The green grass of the forest soaked up most of the blood. Elgana pulled back and tucked the spear away, trying to drown out his deafening cries of protest. Loss of blood was rapid, and she could tell the wound would be fatal. With whatever energy he had left, Thor managed to transfer excruciating screams into the last audible words of his life.
"I'm sorry, Thor," she told him, her voice cold and devoid of feeling. "I really did hate deceiving you this whole time, but once the commanders found out that I had met you, I was assigned to make sure of your downfall. You were distracted by love, and so I was the perfect way to get to you. It would be foolish to pass up a chance at disposing of such a skilled and promising captain. It's like I told you yesterday: I know where my loyalties lie, and I'll do whatever is necessary...for my people, that is. After all, all's fair in love and war, right?"
Thor made no discernible answer; she did not expect him to. His body was fatally near death, but even more so, his heart had crumbled from the bitter sting of blatant betrayal. She wasn't sure if there was still any spark of life in the body, but if there was, it wouldn't last long. Bending down, she picked up the bleeding body and heaved it into the back of the hovercraft. She would return to base and personally bring his body to the storehouse for future disposal. After all, she knew exactly where the bodies were kept and had been to them many times before.