Horrors without, horrors within. Dauculus represented the single greatest loss of Zing Tao in the history of the Order. AAR’s were never released to the public and those within say even time itself failed to wear down the gates of regret. Zeke never spoke of the matter and until the meeting with Rog, neither had Von.

“Peace is not a place Rog,” said Von. “Physical wounds heal. Sometimes the emotional ones, well, sometimes they take a little longer.”

Rog took another sip of snoot and Von continued. “We all make mistakes. We all have regrets. Hindsight is 20/20. Would we have done things different on Dauculus if given the chance? Absolutely. Mistakes were made and lives lost. The real damage, and I want you to listen to me very closely, the real damage was not what happened to us, but what we thought about it.”

Von leaned back in his chair without breaking eye contact with Rog, judging the measure of the Hynerian’s comprehension. Rog gazed down at his glass and swirled the snoot to bring the aroma into play. He wasn’t sure if Von’s words or the snoot was making him the most dizzy.

“She’s going to make it Rog. And she was right; if you had interfered you would have put her life at risk.”

“How do you know that Von? How do you know she is going to wake? How do you know I shouldn’t have done something when I could?”

“Trust me Rog. Matters of this nature happen for a reason.”

“Speaking of reasons, you never did say why you, a mighty Zing Tao, are onboard our ship?”

“I owed a debt.”

“What kind of debt?”

“Dauculus Rog. Why do you think I told you that story? I screwed up. My career should have been over. I thought it would be. The Hynerian that should have been most angry, I’m talking about Zeke, took the blame for me. He never reported to Ji nor told anyone else that I was the one that failed the others. Hynerians, some of the most highly trained Zing Tao, reporting directly to Zeke lost their lives because of my mistake.”

Rog sat stunned.

“My Kestrel crew failed to provide covering support. Zeke’s deployment got ripped to shred’s by chaos engineered Raptors. They were defenseless. Caught in the open waters. I can still here the distress signals and radio chatter in my head as if it were yesterday. By the time we arrived it was too late. The damage had been done.”

“I’m sorry Von.”

“When we landed and I exited my Kestrel, Zeke was the first one to greet me. I expected court martial, on the spot.” Von paused, looked down at his drink and then back up at Rog.

“And?”

“With tears in his eyes he hugged me.”

Rog looked askew at Von.

“Only a Zing Tao with the ability to make it to the ninth order could have responded with that level of compassion in the heat of the moment. I learned more in that one embrace than my entire training up to that time. And I owe everything else I accomplished because of that Hynerian.”

“And how does that lead you to our little ship?”

Von laughed and standing up slapped Rog across the head. “Maybe you should lay off the snoot a bit. I’m here because of Kyra bonehead. Zeke asked me to look after her. I knew it was my chance, my chance to repay the debt.”

A loud knock at the door interrupted Rog’s response. Yul had found her Hynerian.

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