“I can’t shake him!”, I said in the comlink in a panicked voice.
As I looked behind me, I could see three… no, four Vegarel starfighters, right on my tail… Damn it! I could always manage to get one off me, but as soon as I did that, another would take his place.
Everything was going fine just minutes ago… The diversion worked perfectly well and the cruiser was being disabled by the Silver Squadron. Only a matter of time before this gigantic obstacle was removed of our way and we could press on…
But the Vegarel starfighters had to try and upset everything. We didn’t see them coming, so focused on not getting shot by the cruiser. When they were on us, it was too late to get to a safe distance and the dogfight had started almost instantly.
There was only three of us on this side of the ship. The others had gone with Gold Leader on the other side to take out their bridge. Evidently that worked all fine because the cruiser was not making any difficulties now.
But we were being overwhelmed on our side. The Dark Star and the Constellation had their own problems as well as a swarm of starfighters were targeting them and the Silver Squadron had just now begun to turn towards us to help us.
A sudden shock made my whole body shake in my seat. The alarm of my ship went off and as I checked on my screens, my heart was racing. The port engine had been hit, the damages were bad… Not critical yet, but bad still…
“Thesar! Do you copy?!”, said Asher of Elinzer in the comlink. “Thesar, come in! We’re trying to reach you! What is your position?”
Would they get there in time, I thought. The Vegarels were coming close on me and were adamant at taking me down. I took the comlink and opened a channel of communication towards Gold Squadron.
“Gold Squadron, come in! This is Thesar Maribor of Gold Five. I am hit and am sustaining heavy fire! Please, come in!”, I said quickly in the comlink.
Another blast came very close to the hull of my starfighter, exploding next to the protective windows of my cockpit. The blast exploded into a purple light, blazing hot with smoke. A few more of these striking the hull and I would become space dust I knew.
“Gold Five, this is Silver Leader”, said a woman in the comlink. “We have received your call and are sending help right away. Please announce your current position.”
Anger grew in me. Damned them and their protocol, their unmovable calm and control. Couldn’t they see that she was fighting for her life here?
Another blast hit the hull of the ship. Blue flames rose bright and hungry above the cockpit windows, spreading slowly onto the hull. Pushing a switch, I activated the emergency water pumps and directed them towards the growing flames.
Still evading the blasters and keeping an eye on the flames, I opened the comlink channel again.
“Gold Five to Silver Squadron. I am flying over Sector L towards the wreck of the cruiser. Four Vegarel starfighters are coming close on me. My engine and hull is damaged. I require immediate assistance!”, I said in the calmest voice I could take.
The flames on my hull were dying. That was good… Other blasts kept coming at me but I had managed to make some distance between the Vegarel ships and myself, making it more easy for me to evade their attacks. It didn’t matter to them apparently and still they were blasting away.
“Position spotted, Gold Five. Sending the full Silver Squadron after you. Hold on there, we’re coming as fast as we can.”, replied the woman in the comlink.
Sweat was dripping off my hair and my heart was pounding my chest as if it wanted nothing more than getting out of my ribcage. I needed to remain calm for me to get out of this one. Reinforcements were coming… Asher would probably yell at me for this one, but at least I’ll be alive.
I didn’t want to die, I realized. It was too soon… Too soon. I thought of my dear husband, Gallyon, who hadn’t wanted to die either but did anyway… I could not believe it had been only a year since he had been taken from me. It seemed like an eternity to me. Galaxies had been born and died since the last time I had felt his lips on mine and embraced him against my heart.
Tears appeared in my eyes. Why was I crying, I thought, annoyed by myself. It wasn’t time for that. I had to focus on what was happening right now. Only the present mattered… The smoke was probably what was making me cry.
Other blasts were coming at me but it seemed to me that they were coming from very far away now. The heat and the sweat did not seem to wear me out as much anymore either. I remembered my darling daughter, little Naerys. I remembered her smile and her curly golden hair. The bright green of her eyes that was like two emeralds shining in the light. Her laugh when I had taken her for her first ride on the starfighter.
She had loved the stars and the nebulas, the colours of space going from deep purple to bright blue and yellow and of course the never-ending darkness of empty space. But Naerys had not been afraid. She had her father’s courage and smile.
“Mommy, where are you going?” she had asked me when the call came to get ready to depart.
I had knelt down in front of her, already dressed to leave, and brushed the curls of her hair like I always did before leaving…
“Mommy is going to help some people who need her, okay darling? You’ll have to stay in the house for a few days. Uncle Laerk will come and take care of you while I’m gone but you have to promise to me that you’re going to be nice. Alright?”
And Naerys had smiled and nodded. I remembered the embrace and her kiss on my cheek before I left. As well as the promise I had made…
“When I come back, Uncle Laerk and us two are going to go to the Opera together, listen to some music for an evening. And if you behave with your uncle while I’m gone, maybe even go to that restaurant we went to for your birthday… You’d like that, isn’t it?”
Naerys’ face had lit up in a smile. “Could I have some shrimps when we get there? I liked those last time…”
I had kissed her on the forehead and smiled back. “Anything you’d like, my darling.” I had stood up and opened the door. Turning back to wave at her, I had promised again…
“I won’t be long… You won’t even know I was gone darling… I love you.”
I love you… I thought. Three words that meant so much to me and to her. She had become my whole world when Gallyon had died. And I had become hers…
Another blast came, striking the hull just above the engine. The lights of the cockpit failed for a few seconds. One more of those and it will be too late.
I wiped the tears off my eyes and cheeks with the back of my hand and glanced at the scanners. I could see the formation of the Silver Squadron coming behind the four Vegarel starfighters. They were coming closer… With another ship as well…
“Thesar! Do you read me! It’s Gold Three! Your friend Julius, please answer in the name of the Gods!”, said a familiar voice in the comlink.
I picked up the comlink and answered at once. “Julius! Thank the Gods… Get me out of this mess, I beg you!”
“I can’t hear you clearly, Thesar! They damaged your radio transmitter! Hold on, I’m coming as fast as I can!”, he was saying in the radio.
I glanced over my shoulder and I saw him, coming hard on the starboard side of my ship, flanking the enemies. One Vegarel starfighter must have seen him too for he changed course and moved against Julius’ ship.
Three blasts came towards me and it took all my strength and years of training to manage to evade all of them. I would not die. Not today! Naerys was waiting for me at home. She was! I wouldn’t leave her there. I couldn’t.
Suddenly one of the Vegarel ship went in flames and burst into a huge explosion. He had been hit by one of the Silver Squadron’s starfighters who had finally caught them up. The other starfighters were being flanked and it would be a matter of seconds for me to be free. I almost cried out in laughter but then…
A blast hit the engine again and it went in purple and white flames. The smile that had won over my face faded away as I knew what it meant.
I looked in front of me towards the ending of space. Somewhere… Far out there… My daughter was in the backyard under the sun of beautiful Suliri. She would be playing with her wooden starfighter or with some of the animals that sometimes came to visit her into our garden. It would be close to sunset and soon she would eat dinner and go to sleep, dreaming of the shrimps that I will never see her eat.
I reached out to her and hoped against hope that she could feel the eternal love that I had felt for her since the day she was born. I felt my tears falling down my cheeks as it ended.
I never heard the explosion, nor felt the pain. Everything became white and pure as I ceased to be. Behind me, I felt warm air and the scent of lilac and roses. I turned around and there I saw it. Under a purple and blue sky, a golden field was spreading to the horizon. I could glimpse the shadows of mountains far off in the distance and what looked like a river underneath them. I smiled as I recognized the place. I walked into the field, still smiling.
Gallyon was there, under the oak tree where we met. As beautiful as he was on that same day, curly blond hair falling down on his shoulders, brown laughing eyes and this knowing smile that I had come to love so much. He looked at me and his smile grew only larger.
“Welcome home, my love.”, he said.
Seconds became eternity. Day became night and night became day as I sat down under the tree with him, holding his hand, waiting… Waiting as Gallyon had waited for me… Waiting now for my daughter to come home… one day…