Bonds Deeper Than Blood

“Kay, I can’t dodge all of it!  Eyes on the battle!”
“Bite me!” she snarled back.
Her screen was absolutely lit up.  The process of this was so unbelievably taxing.  Every battle left her so mentally and physically drained.  She didn’t like to complain, looking back up and seeing her companion in the seat in front of her, desperately moving to dodge and attack.  For whatever reason, command always saw fit to have them right in the thick of whatever fight.  The assertion was that since this unit had a shield that was nigh-impenetrable with the right crew, why not have them dealing with the worst of every battle.  Enemy armors were everywhere.  Just everywhere.  Bogeys on her screen and energy lances in all directions.  Made sense why her head was killing her.
Quinn was doing everything she could to move and return fire.  A unit decided to try its luck and come in close.  Bad move.  Energy blade sawed it right in half.  An enemy cruiser was coming up.  This was bad.  They could handle enemy fire from units, but beam weapons on these monsters was unstoppable.  They hadn’t gotten the order to retreat yet, so all they could do was avoid fire.
“Command, Protectorate cruiser incoming!  Request permission to withdraw!”
“Negative, Killer Bee.  Keep at it.”
Switching the comms to the ship off.  “These fuckers wanna kill us!”
Hard for Kate to argue, but she couldn’t respond.  Now things just got worse.  Their units were doing the best they could, but already they had lost five.  This was supposed to be an elite squadron, yet so many of their best had already been killed.  It hurt to see all the racks having to get reassigned.
The cruiser was lining up their guns.  It was clear that the Killer Bee was the target.  This unit was giving the Protectorate hell, now they wanted it dead.  Quinn decided on a desperate gambit.  She hit the boosters and flew hard at the cruiser.
“Are you nuts?!” Kate yelled.
“The closer we get the less guns there are shooting as us!  I can’t dodge particle cannons and defense lasers!  The shield can’t take the cannons, and you can’t deflect all the lasers.  I can hear you cracking.”
It was hard to admit, but it was true,  She was getting sloppy.  They hadn’t taken damage yet, but they would be soon.  Her endurance was failing.
“Sorry.”
“We’re not dead yet.  No apologizing.”
“Right.”
Killer Bee swooped in over the gray hull of the enemy ship.  Blue beams came like shafts in the black void.  Meanwhile, yellow particle beams from massive guns were also coming out.  Quinn trained the cannons on the nearest laser emitters and opened up, blowing holes in the hull.  They flew right at the nearest cannon and let loose on that as well.  The gun was blasted full of holes and stopped firing.  This weapon was too big to blow up.  At least not without missiles.  They used those up during the ambush.
A voice suddenly came onto the comm.  “Relax, everybody!  The cavalry has arrived!”
Massive explosions suddenly coated the back of the ship, right at the engines.  Quinn pulled up and started moving away.  The lasers had trained on new targets.  A series of bombers had come from a ship that was hiding behind one of the larger asteroids.  More explosions.  They ignited the drive core!  This ship was as good as dead.
“All fighters and armors, return to the fleet!”
“About fucking time!” Quinn snarled.  They quickly shifted back and she hit the accelerator as fast as it would go.  Just below the speed where their particle field couldn’t keep up.  Kate was breathing heavy as she leaned back in the seat, turning off her console.  The exhaustion was catching up fast.
“Take a look at this,” her pilot said, pulling up an image on the display.  It showed the cruiser they had been fighting.  Shimmering particles were flowing out.  The drive core was leaking.  It was going to blow!  Kate leaned across Quinn’s seat.  In a brilliant shimmer of yellow and green light, the drive went up.  The explosion was massive, sending particles everywhere.
“Beautiful…” she marveled.
“Yeah.  Amazing.”  There was a string of explosions afterwards.  Part of the risk of the Nova Engine is that once the particles are caught up in an explosion, it doesn’t just blow up and then go away.  The particles ignite for a time afterwards.  Hence why the drive is in the center of any ship with extensive shielding over it.  Once a drive goes up, any ship nearby has to flee, fast.
The armors, fighters, and the bombers that joined them headed back towards their ships.  Enemy fighters and armors were headed away, now in a pretty pickle.  If there were no ships within range, they couldn’t make a jump to sub-space on their own.  All they could do is sit and wait.  If your ship was blown up and you had no support craft within distress beacon range, it was typically better to just surrender.  The alternative was either your power running out and you freezing to death, your oxygen running out and you suffocating, or any emergency water supplies being depleted and you dying of thirst.  None of which were good ways to go.  The enemy wasn’t surrendering, so they must have known reinforcements were close enough.  A good sign to vacate the area, with haste.

Back on the ship, the Killer Bee was docked in its hangar, where the repair technicians looked it over.  Aside from heating of the guns and some minor repairs, they were being kept very bored.  Kate was a master at what she did.
In the dressing room, the two women were stripping down.  Both were utterly exhausted.  After they got out of their g-suits, now they were only wearing flight jumpers.  Once those were off, Kate sat on the floor.  Freezing cold, but she would take it.  Eased the tension on her skin.
Looking over, Quinn cocked an eyebrow.  She was struggling to put on her underwear.
“You okay?”
Shaking her head.  “No, I’m not.  So fucking exhausted.  But my body is so damn tense.  My head is killing me, and my body feels like a spring being pressed on.  It almost hurts how tense I am.  But I don’t even have the energy to get up.  So done with today.”
Walking over, Quinn held out her arm to her compatriot.  “I can help with that.  But first, let’s get that naked butt off the floor.  You’ll catch cold doing that.  Not gonna have you in our bird sneezing.
Taking her hand, Kate smiled.  “Okay, Harley, what do you have in mind?”
“First that you put some clothes on.  I can’t take you where I want to go naked.”
Both of them cracked up.

It was dark inside of the Constellation Chamber.  One of the most underutilized rooms in the entire ship, this was a place where one could have darkness and see the stars.  They could also turn off the gravity inside and just rest.  A projection of the stars would appear overhead, along with all sorts of stellar phenomenon.  You could see the gaseous clouds of a supernova.  It was something they had recorded.  What was on the viewer tonight was a brilliant particle clouds from that night.  Someone one the ship was nice enough to record it and now it was displayed, making the whole room shimmer.
Kate was on her stomach, with Quinn on her lower back, her hands working up and down.  There was soft music playing, with the two just enjoying the silence.  For Kate’s part, she was loving it.  The tension was easing up.  This woman’s hands were magic.  The lights reflecting on the floor from the bench they were on was so soothing.  Part of her was thinking she was going to fall asleep.
“It’s okay, you know,” Quinn said.  “If you start snoring.”
Raising her head up.  “Hey!  It is not cool to be in my head!”  Like she could complain.  After all the time they had spent together in training, the two women might as well have the same mind.  They were so synchronized that you would catch them finishing each other’s sentences.  The two were always together.  Always.  They were virtually never seen apart.  Led a lot of the crew to wonder what their deal was, but no one would say it publicly.  After their victories in battle, both had earned a huge amount of respect.
“Just count yourself lucky.  My first piece of advice was that we should hit the showers and I would have given you a rub there.”
Kate groaned.  “As if we need more rumors about us.”
A chuckle, and she went back to her work.  The quiet classical music continued.  The mood lingered on, with the quiet suddenly becoming more pronounced.
“Hey Quinn?”
“Yeah?”
Another pause.  “Why have you never made a move on me?  I mean, everyone already assumes we’re together.  Why did you never make a move?”
The girl stopped for a moment, resuming.
“Because for the longest time I hated your guts.  The two of us damn-near tried to kill each other for our entire time at boot and then for weeks when we met up here.  There was just so much negativity.  Then things turn around, and we got to know each other.  You were always talking about your boyfriends and how close you were to them, so I just figured that you were straight.  Why do you ask?”
Kate shrugged.  “I don’t know.  Just thinking out loud.”
“Oh.”
The quiet came back, and now both women were awkward, yet the rubbing continued.
“Have you been thinking about it?” Quinn asked, finally.
Looking down for a moment.  “Maybe, a little.  I mean, we’re always together.  You even came to my rack when you had the nightmare.  It was always on my mind why you never expressed any interest.”
She smiled.  “It’s not like I haven’t thought about it.  But you know all the rules about fraternization.”
“Oh please!  As if the rules have ever stopped you from doing something.”
“Fine, you caught me.  Maybe it was me wondering if what we had going was something real or just a battle thing.  You know?  Like we were just bonding over the war and being afraid of dying?”
Wiggling to let her know she wanted up, she looked over at her pilot.  “Do you still think that way now?”
Head down, then back up.  “I don’t know.  Like, it’s always in the back of my mind, but then I think of how we laugh at each other’s jokes and how every time I am away from you I don’t wanna be.  Then I think about what will happen when all this is over, if the two of us are alive, and I feel really scared because I don’t want to imagine you being far away and me not being with you anymore.”
Kate grabbed her hand.  “Hey now!  When we’re done here, I am so taking you back my colony world!  I wouldn’t let you go back to that tiny apartment now.  You’re too important to me to just leave behind once this is done.  And to be honest, I kinda think the same thing.  Like, about how I don’t know what I would do if you weren’t with me.  And yeah, I guess I have been thinking about it.  Before we really started to mesh, after all the negative stuff got out of the way, I never thought about that sort of thing before.  I mean, there’s always that one insanely hot girl that everyone is staring at, but it never really occurred to me before now with myself.  You’re just so…different.
The two women were so close now, looking right into one-another’s eyes.
“You promise?  That you’ll take me back to your home if we survive the war?”
Kate nodded.  “I wouldn’t lie about that!”
“I’m not saying you would.  But you have talked about how your family is very colonial.  Not sure they would dig how I am.”
Shaking her head.  “I don’t care about what they would think.  It’s what you think that matters.”
For a long time they just sat there, staring at each other.  Kate smiled at her companion.  Quinn took her hand and kissed it.  The two were now closer than ever.
Looking at her seriously, Quinn said, “don’t make the move, if you don’t mean it.”
Pulling her close, their lips touched.  After a few moments together, they pulled apart.
“I never knew how much I needed to do that before now,” Kate whispered.  And with that, the song ended.  Quinn hit a switch, and the image changed to a glowing red dust cloud.

Until next time, a quote,

“Every seaman is not only a navigator, but a merchant and also a soldier.” – William Petty

Peace out,

Maverick

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Memories From Both Sides

Three weeks.  Three grueling weeks of trying and failing to get the pilot and her support to cooperate.  Every day bled into around the same thing.  They would get up, with one trying to very diligently to be an educated pilot who is informed about her machine and its capabilities.  Her studying was commendable.  Then there was the pilot herself.  Distant, unconcerned with anything other than getting into the simulator, the two would get into long, protracted arguments that would serve only to have them grow further and further apart.  To those on the outside watching their interactions, it was like seeing bitter enemies being stuck in a room together, secretly finding ways to kill each other.
When the two got where the pilot wanted to be, in the simulator, things were even worse.  Constant failure to communicate while the pilot was paying attention to the task at hand and saying virtually nothing to her comrade, if anything at all, then being baffled as to why she was so out of sync with her.  Failed battle after failed battle, where having the Eternal Shield was the least of their problems.  The constant bickering meant that they were not even paying attention to the simulated battle at hand.  At one point, the pilot completely stopped paying attention to the battle and turned around to argue.
The commanding officers reprimanded them harshly.  Both were stuck on every punishment duty they could think of.  This only made things worse, with one blaming the other.  Three weeks, and it was more than a little clear that there was to be no compromise between them.  The ship’s counselors couldn’t make a dent.  These two were tasked with leading the charge with the newest weapon in the Fleet, which was slated to go into battle in under a month, and it hadn’t even gone out into space for actual flight yet.

In the Rear Admiral’s ready-room, there was a harsh discussion between him, his attendant, the CO of the two, and the ship’s counselors.
“Sir, we gotta get rid of them.  There’s time to find a new crew and get them trained.  Barely enough.  If these two women want to cat-fight every day, then I say kick them out.  Send them to separate ships and be done with it,” the attendant said, looking grim.
“Or we could threaten them with dishonorable discharge.  Maybe that would make the bitches wanna play ball,” the CO chimed in.
Rear Admiral Williams was rubbing his temples.  This same conversation had been going on for three weeks.  Now it was filtering out to the rest of the ship.  The cat-fights of the two crew for the most advanced ship in the Fleet.  People were chuckling everywhere.  The situation was grim and the entire ship was now getting a reputation because of it.  Didn’t help that they would continue their bickering after leaving APO space.
Looking over to the counselors.  “What do you suggest?”
An older woman, blonde hair and lines on her face looked up.  She was calm, collected.  “Sir, if I may, there’s no reason to get rid of both of them.  Just get rid of one.  Lt. Mills has shown that she wants to put in the time and effort to learn all she can about this machine and be good at her job.  Based on the interviews we have done, it’s clear she is dedicated to this.  Meanwhile, Lt. Jelineau doesn’t seem to care less about the machine and only wants to fly.  That’s great.  Her flight experience would make her one hell of a pilot.  Send her to some other ship and get a new pilot who can work better with Mills.  It’s an easy solution.”
The Attendant shook his head.  “Yeah, and what squadron is going to give up a good pilot now?”  He looked at the Rear Admiral.  “Sir, let’s kick the pilot to the curb or transfer her off ship and get one of our own.  We got some damn good men and women in this outfit.  I’m sure one of them can be trained to take over.  We don’t have time to negotiate with other ships for a replacement.  We are headed to battle in just under a month!”
It was a good argument.  This close to their fleet being sent into battle, the odds of getting a pilot they wanted was slim.  All of the ships were busy getting themselves ready, and by now most of their pilots had learned their squadrons and machines.
The Rear Admiral shook his head.  “We can’t just get some new pilot and hope for them to learn to use this armor in under a month.”  Standing up, he walked to the simulated window, looking out at the stars.  Everyone was silent for a long time.
Finally, the CO looked up.  “We could always just scrap it.  Send the armor back to Fleet Command and say we couldn’t get a crew able to pilot it correctly.  Not even a lie.  Wouldn’t make us look good, but it’s a hell of a lot better than taking the new model out into battle for the first time only to watch it blow up.  This bird has a hell of a lot of potential.  I don’t want to see this project scrapped because of two incompetent crew.”  The room got even more sullen.
For a long time, the Rear Admiral looked at the stars.  “There’s something about those two.  I saw it when I looked at them.  They’re damn good at what they do.”  Looking over at the CO.  “Independently, they both aced their roles, correct?”
He looked defeated.  “Aye, sir.  When they’re not together, to two really do kick ass.  Jelineau can hit a bulls-eye at any range and move like you wouldn’t believe, while Mills has really gotten a handle on the Eternal Shield.  I’m not gonna deny they are amazing.”
“With all due respect, sir, that doesn’t count for shit if they can’t work together,” the Attendant remarked.
Looking back at them, Williams sat back at his desk.  “I can feel there is real potential here.  But I can’t deny the possibility that I’m wrong.  So here’s what we’re going to do.  I’m going to give them one more week to get their act together.”  Turning to the CO.  “In the meantime, I want you to start scouting potential candidates who can be potential replacements.  Understood?”
Everyone stood up, saluting.  “Aye-aye!”
“Okay.  Dismissed.”

As the meeting was going on, Kate walked into the hangar with their bird.  It hadn’t been given a name yet.  One of the many things that her and her compatriot couldn’t agree on.  There were only a couple lights on, which was fine.  When the door closed, she leaned against the wall beside it, slid down to the floor, and started to cry.
It was clear that they were going to be kicked off this soon.  The entire ship saw the two of them as a joke.  Endless arguments, each of them having every ugly duty that could be assigned as punishment.  If it wasn’t for the fact that they were supposed to be the crew for this bird, it was clear both of them would have been either kicked off the ship or kicked out of the Fleet.  This machine was the only thing saving their careers from dishonorable discharge.  And it hadn’t even gone into space yet.  The damn thing sat there, collecting dust, because that fucking bitch couldn’t listen to me!  She wrapped her arms around her knees and put her head against it, sobbing.
This was going to be how her career ended.  Her wings really were a joke now.  One that the entire ship was laughing at.  Looking down at them, a dark look came to her face.  Might as well get rid of them now!  Their CO or the Admiral was gonna do it eventually anyway.  No point prolonging the inevitable.  She tore them off her uniform, throwing them at the bird as hard as she possibly could.  They clanged off the cockpit, falling to the deck.
From inside the cockpit, Quinn’s eyes came open.  What the hell?!  Still half-asleep, she pulled up the sensors on the machine.  An impact had happened.  Something hit the bird?!  From where?!  That’s when she saw a shadow on the floor.  Guess this was something to be addressed.
Opening up the hatch, she pulled out her tablet and brought the lights up.  That’s when she saw Kate, on the floor, curled up, tear streaks on her face.
“What the hell are you doing here?”
Looking up, equally confused, Kate hit back, “What do you care?  Why are you here?”
“I was trying to get some sleep.  Then some stuck-up bitch decided to throw shit and not.”
“Go to your rack if you wanna sleep.”
Looking down.  “Can’t sleep there.  Too much noise.”
Kate rolled her eyes, resting her head again.  “Whatever.”
Seeing a glint of metal on the floor, Quinn reached down and picked it up.  The wings that go on one’s uniform, signifying that you’re a pilot.  Why’d she throw this at my bird?
“What, you don’t want the wings anymore?”
Looking up, rage coming into her eyes.  “Can you just leave me the fuck alone, Quinn?!  Is it possible for once for you to keep your fucking attitude away from me for one goddamn second?!  Maybe realize that no one wants you here and go be a bitter cunt somewhere else?!  Can you do that?!”
Oh, so that’s how it is.  “Why?  Wanna be alone while you wallow in self-pity?”
Standing up fast, balling her fists.  “That’s it!  I am fucking done with your fucking attitude!”  She ran right at her, tagging the girl hard in the face.  Being thrown back, Quinn balled her fists up and ran back at her.  Tackling Kate, she landed on top of her, punching her face over and over again.  Her support tech smashed her knee into Quinn’s back, using the opportunity to get up and take a swing at her again, this time tagging her shoulder and chin.  The two women grappled for several minutes, until Kate had Quinn by her uniform, looking to catch her in the face again.  In a bid of desperation, she wrestled the arm that was holding her away, tearing open the buttons on her NSU’s.  There was exposed two necklaces.  The first was her tags, but the second got Kate’s attention.
It was a necklace with several things hanging from it.  The first was a feather.  Next was a locket with a heart on it.  Then there was a ring that was stainless steel, with something that looked like chain links wrapping around a metal interior.  It was clearly far too big for her.  Lastly there was a cross.  A symbol of the Christian religion.  Seeing those was virtually unheard of.  That religion supposedly died out 200 years ago.
Quinn pulled back, desperately trying to close her uniform, trying to hide the necklace from her assailant.
Stepping back, Kate gave her a confused look.  “What’s up with the necklace?”
“None of your fucking business!”  Tears started welling up.
This was a first.  In all the fights and bitterness between them, Kate had never seen her about to cry.  It deflated things pretty quick.  In that moment, this person who she had had such issue with seemed very human.
“You can talk to me, Quinn.  We’re supposed to be a team.”
“Talk to you about what?!  I got nothing to talk about!”
The anger started coming back.  “God, what is it with you?!  You work so hard to be distant from me.  What the fuck did I do to deserve this?!”
“From the moment we met, you acted like you are such hot shit!  Your mommy and daddy in uniform when they see you.  Everyone treats you like you are meant to be here.  Me?  I had to bust my ass to get here!  Had to show everyone that I can do what no one else can!  What no one else would.  Sure, I took stupid risks, but it got the job done.  But there you were, with your little clique, looking at me like you are so much better.  I got news for you, Kay, you ever get a look at whose name was at the top of the score in the sims at the Academy?  It was me!  I was the top ace at that school.  But then that stupid accident happened and all of you were laughing your asses off as I was being shown the hatch.  So fucking smug, right up to the end!  Then I get here, to take on a job that no other pilot in the whole damn Fleet can do, and what do I see?!  Your smug face still fucking judging me!”
The words were venomous, rage-filled.  Tears were openly flowing down her face now.  All of the airs she put on, being so tough, melting away.  Kate looked down.  It hurt her, for reasons she didn’t think of.
“Growing up, there was a lot that was expected of me,” she said.  “I come from a Navy family.  My parents served, my brother and sister serve.  After I strike out due to health problems the first time, I finally get in.  Everyone had such astronomical expectations, I pushed myself so much farther than I had to, because I couldn’t let them down.  Because of who my parents are, everyone treated my differently.  Guess I didn’t really see that before now.”
The two weren’t breathing as heavy anymore.  They stood there, as if waiting for something to happen.
“I’m sorry, Quinn.  I…I didn’t know I was hurting you.  Can we start over?  I’m tired of fighting.  It’s making my fucking hair fall out the stress is so high.  Can we start all of this over again?  Please?”
Leaning against the armor, Quinn whispered, “okay.”
Slumping against the wall, she let out a breath.  “Thank you.”  Looking back at the necklace.  “So, if you don’t mind me asking, what’s the story with that necklace?  A lot of random things on there.”
The pilot looked down at it, running her fingers over the various trinkets.  “I didn’t have a family, growing up.  Was some duct rat orbital station kid.  There were a lot of us on our station.  We all had something with us to remember each other by, if we died.  Happened a lot.  Some kid would be cut up by the fans in the ducts, killed by thugs, sucked out into vacuum.  Lost a lot of friends.  Anytime one of them died, I took their memento and put it on a necklace.  Now they’ll be with me forever.”
A sudden feeling of unimaginable guilt washed over her.  All the self-pity she had been feeling about her family, and here this woman was, all alone in the world.
“You don’t have any family?” Kate asked.
“I’m sure there’s a father out there somewhere, in the genetic registry, but I don’t care enough to look.  As for my mother, she told me to wait at the port for her to come back.  In some ways, I’m still waiting.  I waited there for as long as I could, until I realized she wasn’t coming back.  Don’t know if she just ditched me there, died, or what.  Doesn’t matter.  I survived.”
In that moment, there was a sudden protective feeling that came over Kate.  She had to look after this woman.  So much darkness surrounded her.  No wonder she was so desperate to prove herself.  All her life she had to prove herself.  Standing up, she walked over to where Quinn leaned, moving to put her arms around her.
She backed off.  “I don’t need your sympathy!”
Looking right into her eyes.  “This isn’t sympathy, Quinn.”  Her arms wrapped around her.  For a second, it was one-sided, until at last the pilot hugged her back, resting her head on Kate’s shoulder.  At last, there was peace in the hangar.

From their display in the Rear Admiral’s office, Williams and his Attendant watched the event unfold.
“Well, they’re both out now, regardless, sir,” the Attendant sighed.  “A physical altercation?  No way we can cover that.”
Grabbing his tablet, Williams hit a couple sensors.  The image suddenly went away, replaced with an error message.
“We have finally gotten these two to get along.  It finally looks like the crew of our experimental armor has put their differences aside.  So, I didn’t see anything.  Did you?”  His tone of voice was dead serious.
Pale as a corpse, he shook his head.  “No sir.”
“Good.  Dismissed.”
“Aye-aye, sir.” A quick salute.
When he left, the Rear Admiral smiled.  So they were the team he wanted.  All it took was them getting to the breaking point.  His instincts were right.  Turning back to the video footage, he saw the two women chatting, they seemed to almost be smiling.  Instincts were spot on.

Until next time, a quote,

“I have you in my grasp.  I shall not bend.” – Rachel Amber, Life is Strange: Before the Storm

Peace out,

Maverick

The Eternal Shield

“This is bullshit!” Kate said, pounding her fist on the table.  “I trained for three years to be a pilot!  Now you’re telling me I get to be support staff?!  What the fuck?!”
“You’re speaking to a superior officer, Lieutenant!”
She turned away.  Face was beet red, and now she was being shut down.  No way was she going to let them see how hurt she was by this.  All the years of training, getting rank to fly, now this was how it ended.  Being relegated to a support role.  It was beyond insulting.  Her scores were at the top of her class.  In the simulator she was ranked in the top 10 percent of all the students at Fleet Academy.  When she put the wings on that uniform, it was the proudest she had ever been.  Seeing her father in uniform, shaking her hand was such an honor.  Would make family events interesting, since she now outranks him.  Not that she would ever pull rank.  He was retired anyway.  All that work, and this is how it ends.
The Rear Admiral looked over at her.  A very calm, stoic man.  Every part of him was the definition of a Navy officer.  Well-trimmed beard, lines on his face that showed history of making hard decisions, and a uniform that while being perfect pressed, was worn too.  The years showed on his face, on his collar, sleeve, and chest.  He was worthy of respect.
“Come with me, Lieutenant.  Perhaps when you see the machine you’ll be in support with, you’ll understand.”
“Yes sir…” was all she could manage.  Her mind was trapped in a dark place, thinking of what everyone would say when she got back home and said her wings were basically stripped away.

Once they got off the elevator to the hangar bay, it was then that she noticed how she was walking right behind a Rear Admiral.  For someone in her position to be given a tour of something by the commander of the entire ship, it was very strange.  Why would he be giving her the rundown?  What was this unit?
After a long walk, they reached a hangar bay that was marked “Authorized Personnel Only.”  An APO?  Here?  This was strange enough to get her attention.  Was this unit a new model?  That got her blood pumping again.  The self-pity feeling receded just enough for her to want to see what was waiting for her in the hangar.  Scanning his ID badge, the door opened.  Coming inside, the Admiral’s attendant hit the sensor to turn on the lights.  In front of them was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.  Shining in the light, the black metal of the variable fighting armor was sleek.  It was in flight mode while docked here, no surprise.  Part of her wanted to see what it would look like in combat mode, but she wasn’t brave enough to ask.
Looking the unit over, she saw the typical fighter design reminiscent of Earth.  In space, that design wasn’t practical, but the sleeker look made it a smaller target.  Plus, with the usage of Nova Particles, they could afford to be flamboyant.  No longer were they limited to designs that made the most of booster engines.  Now the laws of gravity would bend to their will.  It was exciting stuff.  Elegant, yet completely lacking in any offensive capability while in flight mode.  That was strange.  Typically, variable armors would have at least basic weapon capability while in flight mode.  Why did this unit not?  That’s when her eyes were drawn to the back of it.  The rear of the unit had the strangest-looking boosters she had ever seen.  There were two of them, but they looked like complete Nova Engines.  The conical section at the tip of each booster was different, but the section linking to it with the unit was identical to what she had studied with Nova Particle engines.  The urge to ask questions was overpowering, but since she was already in the doghouse, she didn’t want to push her luck.
“What do you think, Lieutenant?” the Rear Admiral asked.
Finally!
“Sir, I have to ask – are those Nova engines on the back?  Why would this unit have two reactors?”
“Good eye, Lieutenant.  They are.  This unit utilizes a new system that has never been tested in the field before.  Observe.”  Looking over to a technician who entered the room.  “Let’s see the combat mode.”
“Aye-aye, sir!”  The young woman pulled out a tablet and hit some sensors.  Gravity tethers came down and lifted the fighter up.  It began to shift, with the cockpit going into the chest piece and disappearing.  No surprise.  Protect the pilots.  The head piece came up and had just the single glowing red eye.  Black armor, with yellow segments throughout.
“Beautiful,” Kate whispered.  Then she saw something – the two engines were now on large panels on the back of the shoulders of the armor.
“I’m not following, sir,” Kate said.  “I mean, it looks cool, but what does it do?”
The Rear Admiral turned and winked at her.  “Come into the booth.  It seals so we’re protected from Particle exposure.  We’ll show you.”
They started walking to a door on the far side of the hangar.  Looking back at it, the unit seemed so regal.  On the arms were gun barrels.  They were only exposed to show off.  It was clear that they typically folded into the armor itself.  Very cool to look at.  The legs had no real feet.  Hence why it had to be lifted up to do this.  At the bottom were pointed boosters.  While fighters of the modern age didn’t depend on boosters for mobility or turning in space, they still had them for sudden bursts of speed.  Essential while in battle.  All the cold black and vibrant yellow in the armor.  It reminded her of wasps back on her planet.

They went through the door and it led to a room with consoles in front of a large window.  At them sat technicians.  They had specs for the unit pulled up.
“Sir, everything’s ready here,” one of the techs announced.  Just then, the room started to go up!  This was pretty neat stuff.  Was this hangar designed for this?  Why had she never seen this place before.  So odd.  Now they could clearly see the armor hanging in suspension.
“Show the Lieutenant the shield,” the Rear Admiral commanded.
“Aye-aye!”  A few sensors were hit, then the engines on the shoulder started to shimmer.  Light particles were flowing out!  Made sense why they were in this sealed room now.  Direct exposure to Nova Particle was dangerous.  What were they going to show her.  A shield?  How was that possible?  After studying the particle, she had learned that while they could alter gravity around any contained space, there was no way to focus them in such a way that they could provide a constant shield.  Not without an insane power draw.  The Nova Particle engines worked by being able to create new particles while using them.  There was a restriction on the engines that kept them from drawing to the point that they couldn’t refill the standing supply.  Had they found a way around that?
Just then, she looked at the armor.  All over the body, tiny slots opened.  From there were coming lights.  The cold black metal, with dozens of tiny yellow lights.  It was pretty to look at.  Reminded her of a Solstice tree back home.  Were particles coming out of there?  No, they weren’t.  Then, a series of cannons dropped down.  They were going to shoot it?!  Risking damaging the equipment they were going to take into battle?  Seemed needless.  This was something they could have shown her in a simulation.
“Watch closely, Lieutenant,” the Rear Admiral commanded.
“Aye-aye, sir.”
One of the techs pulled up a display on her screen where it showed a system.  The name of it – Eternal Shield.  Eternal?  How had they found a way to get past the power draw?!  So many questions, but she was told to watch.  The guns came online.  One of them opened fire directly in front of the armor.  The tech furiously entered in information onto her panel.  Right as the beams were going to hit, little hexagons of light appeared!  They deflected the beams effortlessly.  The hexagons were created by the tiny lights on the armor!  What was the tech entering stuff about?  Then, a gun behind and to the side opened up.  Now the tech was really scrambling, but as before, the light shapes appeared and deflected all the shots.  It was amazing to look at.  All three guns opened up and the tech was sweating bullets, but she was able to keep up.  Not a single round hit the machine.  When it was done, the slots closed, and the particles stopped coming out of the engines.
“What do you think, Lieutenant?”
Kate was in awe.  “Sir, I have so many questions.”
“Speak freely.”
“Aye-aye.  First how are you able to solve the problem of power draw?  Something like this must take a colossal amount of particles to make work!”
A technician gave her a winsome smile.  “The twin engine drive.  Well, technically the shield is twin engine.  We also have a third engine inside the machine to power the rest of the systems, such as weapons and propulsion.  But the shield is controlled by dual-engines that work in tandem.  By working together, their individual power isn’t doubled, it’s squared.  We’ve been able to put the system through hours of testing without worrying about particle draw.  There is a protocol in place to remove the TD Blanket from the system, but we have yet to encounter such a situation in even the most stressful tests.”
This put her in even more awe.  “Incredible.  So, how do you make it work?  I saw the technician pounding away on the controls.  Is this something that has to be calibrated while in use?”
The girl at the controls nodded.  “That’s right.  Not only that, but you have to constantly adjust the system.  It’s part of how we keep the power draw at a minimum.  We can’t have the entire shield active at all times.  The particle drain would rise exponentially.  The job of the support technician in the fighter is to constantly adjust the shield to deal with income fire.  While the pilot is doing the moving and fighting, it is your job to keep the shield right where it needs to be.”
“What that means,” the other technician continued, “is that you have to constantly be keeping track of battle data and adjusting the system on the fly.  It’s like analyzing statistical probability in battle at all times and being able to adapt for it.”
The very idea sounded monumental.  To constantly be tracking things, and watching every section to know where and when attacks would come in during the heat of battle, no ordinary pilot could do it.  You’d have to be damn-near superhuman to do this.  That’s when she suddenly felt the pride coming back.  So this was what they were going to have her doing!  A task that was as important as it was difficult.  Let the people back home make fun of her.  They had no idea what she was tasked with.  The wings on her uniform looked a lot better again.
“I understand,” she said.  “So, if I’m gonna be the support tech, then who’s the pilot?”
The Rear Admiral smiled at her.  “I’m glad you asked.  I believe the two of you are acquainted.”
Someone from the Academy!  The idea put a huge smile on her face.  So many able pilots who she would love to be paired up with.  Put in countless hours to make sure they were perfectly in sync with one-another to be able to predict each other’s movements in battle.  This was suddenly unbelievably exciting.
“They should be heading down to meet us right now.  Let’s head out.  Excellent work, everyone.”
The techs all stood up and saluted.  Kate was having such a good day.

As they started back, Kate was already planning how things would go.  Wake up early, study specs.  Her and the pilot could spend hours in the simulator.  Early mornings, whatever duty shifts they had, then the rest of their spare time would be getting to the point where they could read the tone of each other’s voice and predict each other’s actions.  So many fantastic pilots she had graduated with, all of whom would be perfect for this.  It almost made the wait to see who the pilot was unbearable.
Starting back across the hangar bay, she noticed something by one of the regular armors.  The pilot was talking to someone.  This was someone she definitely recognized.  Fire red hair, freckles on her face, it was a woman who was the bane of her existence – Quinn.  Back at the Academy, this girl was every problem that the instructors had.  She was brash, cocky, and took horribly stupid risks.  It all culminated on her taking off with a training armor and pulling a stupid stunt that got the machine trashed, as well as two others.  Everyone just assumed that she was put on the short bus out of the Academy when she was packing up her bag and leaving.  Good riddance, she had thought at the time.  The Fleet didn’t need people like this infesting their corridors.  What was she doing here?  Maybe demoted and serving as a mechanic or something?  The thought pleased her.  Are they forcing her to fix the armors after she trashed one?  Or mopping the floors?  A fitting job.
“Ah, Lieutenant Jelineau!” the Rear Admiral called out.
Quinn looked up and ran over.  She saluted.
“Sir!  Lieutenant Ann Jelineau reporting for duty!”
“Glad to see you made it.  Settled in?”
“Aye sir!  So, when do I get to see this bird you’re gonna have me flying?”
She’s a pilot?  There really is no justice in the galaxy.  This is why people see the Directorate’s Fleet as a joke in some places.
“I just got done showing it to your support tech.  I’ll give you the full tour as well.  But, let me introduce you to your support.  I believe the two of you are familiar with one-another.”
The two looked at each other and while they tried to hide it, it was all over their faces’ that neither liked this.  Kate felt a pit in her stomach.
Oh no!  This can’t be!  Anyone but her!
Holding out her hand, Quinn looked right at her.
“Good to see you again.”
Taking it, both women squeezed tight.
“Likewise.”
And just like that, her good day was utterly destroyed.

Until next time, a quote,

“No man can be explained by his personal history, least of all a poet.” – Katherine Anne Porter

Peace out,

Maverick

Top 10 Traumatizing Things in Fiction as a Child

I haven’t done a top 10 list in ages, and because I am so original, I want to piggy-back off this concept one of my favorite YouTubers put out – traumatizing things in fiction as a child.  As a kid, I had a love-hate relationship with fear.  I loved getting afraid of things, just so I could become more enamored with them.  Today I have a relationship with fear that it’s just being wasted.  Gory horror films do nothing for me.  Deep psychological thrillers, or horror films that actually take the time to build atmosphere (there are so few) are my jam.  As a kid, the stuff that scared me tended to grab my attention.  But that doesn’t mean that it didn’t fuck me up all the same.  Here is a list of the top ten things in fiction that REALLY messed with me, growing up, in a scary way.  Won’t be including any visual aids for this.  Sorry if that’s a deal-breaker.  I just have some of these attached to memories I’d like to forget.

10. Turning into lizard creatures
Star Trek Voyager
In one episode, Lt. Paris had discovered that it was possible to go to warp 10.  He wanted to test this, and he just so happened to take Capt. Janeway along for the ride.  What followed was them turning into these weird lizard creatures. But it wasn’t what you’d expect from Star Trek.  They weren’t some big bulky thing that you can clearly tell is a costume or prop.  They turn into these small creatures that look real.  It was so unsettling to me as a child.  For whatever reason, it just scared me out of my wits that I would turn into one of those things one day.

9. Pig head girl
Goosebumps
This one just fucked with my head.  An episode of Goosebumps featured this city that people could warp into.  It was a two-part episode where you had one of the main characters being turned into a pig because of her greed.  That image just fucked with me so hard.  Looking back on it now it’s ridiculous.  But at the time it just fucked me up so hard.

8. Back monster scene
Phantasm II
As a kid I had this bad habit of going over to my uncle’s house.  He is hardcore religious, and had a pool.  But he also had another thing that he did – watch movies that were SO not appropriate for children.  And as a kid who liked to do things I wasn’t supposed to, I would sneak over sometimes and watch them.  One such film was Phantasm II.  In it, we have a scene with a woman who is covered by a black cloak.  They pull it off her face, and see that her mouth is taped shut.  What else is under that cloak?  They pull back more to reveal that there is a monster inside of her back, eating her.  That scene stuck with me so hard.  Scared the living shit out of me.  But I couldn’t tell my parents about it because I would have gotten in trouble.  The things I dealt with in silence.

7. The covers
Scary Stories (series)
Remember what I said about things that scared me enticing me to know more?  Well, this was one such instance.  I am so fucking pissed that they redid the covers for the new editions of the stories.  The reasoning?  Because they are too scary for kids.  Bullshit!  That is fucking stupid, and people who think that way are stupider.  Yeah, they are scary, but sometimes things that scare kids also intrigue them.  We like a little fear.  I read all of those books because of the covers.  And the neat fact is that the stories themselves were usually about sources of fear who are just misunderstood.  I hate this idea that we have to make the world less difficult for children.  Yeah, because kids can’t handle some scary imagery.  Give me a fucking break.

6. The Witch
Hansel and Gretel
I honestly don’t know which version of this story I saw as a kid, but I remember that there was one version with this character who just fucked up my head so hard.  Something about her screaming at these two children who she had chained up in a cage just messed with my head so fucking hard.  I wish I could remember which version I saw.  This story has been done to death.  Another relic from a time gone by – when we could scare the shit out of children and it was okay, so long as the story has a happy ending.  Don Bluth became a household name in the 80’s because of that philosophy, and he is absolutely right.

5. The threat of nuclear annihilation
I honestly don’t remember what specifically it was that got me scared of this.  Maybe it was a movie, or the news, but I remember that the idea of a nuclear weapon attacking my house scared the piss out of me.  To the point that I slept in my parents bedroom for ages.  We had these mattresses that you could move around, and I was sleeping on one in the corner of their room for a long time.  Now that we could be facing down World War III with North Korea, and the fact that my home state is in their launch radius, that thought has come back to me.  Only this time I think I’d grab some marshmallows and enjoy the roast.

4. The Oompa Loompas
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
I’m talking about the original, not that weird Tim Burton shit.  In this film, the only thing I found truly frightening as a kid growing up with those orange-faced bastards.  They are fucking creepy!  Their creepy faces and their creepy green hair and their creepy songs.  I hated them so much.  To this day I’m not a huge fan.  If I will say what the remakes did better, it is the different songs.  One good spot on a terrible movie.  That’s something, right?

3. Slappy the Puppet
Goosebumps
Oh my Groj, this fucking puppet.  One of the times that something didn’t entice me through fear and just freaked me the fuck out was this puppet.  Everything from its creepy face to its creepy voice, the thing was just so scary!  The guy they got for this puppet was just amazing.  To this day, that creepy face makes my skin crawl.  I’m well-aware how fake it all is, but it’s all in the performance.  The guy they got for that was just too good.

2. Chernabog
Fantasia
The quintessential example of fear compelling me to fascination.  As I am sure many who read my site know, Fantasia is not only my favorite Disney film, but my second favorite film of all time.  And nowhere was that quality better exemplified than in the final number.  In it, we see a powerful demon by the name of Chernabog summoning forth all of the damned for what must be one hell of a party.  That creature mesmerized me.  I loved everything about it.  It had size, presence, and a creepy smile that just played into how scared and captivated I was at the same time.  This character has become a staple of what I love about that film.  Just made me want to go to the party that much more.

And the thing that freaked me out the most in fiction as a kid…

1. Expanding feet
Full House
A disclaimer – I didn’t like this show growing up.  It was stupid, but I was young enough to be stuck watching it when the rest of the family was.  And one scene that really fucked with my head growing up was when the youngest child in the family had this scary dream about her feet expanding really huge, and seeing it.  That shit fucked me up!  For weeks I had bad dreams about that concept, and to this day I feel a little weird when I see it.  Old trauma, maybe?  In any case, in a series devoid of any real tension or darkness, that one element has stuck with me.  Hell, it’s the only thing I can actually remember about the series, outside of the Nostalgia Critic’s review of it.

So, what stuff from fiction fucked up your life as a kid?  Let me know in the Comments

Until next time, a quote,

“Like I said before, I think kids like being scared because it pulls them much more into the action. If they didn’t like being scared, they wouldn’t go out for Halloween, or watch High School Musical” – Nostalgia Critic

Peace out,

Maverick

The Night Before Deployment

They gave me a new uniform.  It was so strange, to be looking at myself in uniform again.  The worst part was getting my hair cut.  Looking at myself, with hair like a pixie doll, it was strange.  I spent years growing that hair out long.  It had become part of my identity.  But I was a pilot too.  That’s how it goes.  The bucket hat that I was wearing, in this black getup, made me feel powerful again.  Getting into uniform was fun.  I was glad that somebody remembered that my hips are wider than other girls.  Jack used to joke that I was “a white girl with a big black booty.”  Always acted annoyed, but you can’t fight the way your body is made.  It has only been an inconvenience when getting pants and getting into uniform.  G-suits are made to squeeze around a body, so they fit loosely when you first put them on, then tighten when you hit the sensor.  Since men and women pilot, they knew to keep the design open to different body types.  I respect that.
Pinning the last of my medals and rank identifiers on my chest and arms, I was ready to face him.  Jack was sitting in the other room.  He told me he was stoked to see what I look like in uniform.  The old uniform I had was blue, back in my days serving alongside the Earth Forces Navy.  My outfit was the part of a special Colonial section.  This new uniform was black, with red on the trim.  It was imposing, and a sign of Colonial solidarity.  The fatigues were black as well, but without the red.  I would have to wear those on the ship.  Told Jack I would model them for him next.
“Geez, honey, you ever coming out of there?”
Snapped back to reality, I groaned.  “You try putting on a uniform and tell me how quickly it goes.”
“Don’t know if I would fit in yours, babe.  Care to find out?”
I rolled my eyes, but still felt good.  He was trying to be positive, so I didn’t worry.  I love him so much.  The idea of leaving him to go fight in a war, it scared the fuck out of me.  But then I remember what it was like, watching that Colony explode when the Earth Forces attacked.  What if that had been here?  What if Jack had been one of the bodies that I saw floating up into space?  Couldn’t breathe, couldn’t handle the thought.  That is why I am fighting.  If there was a chance that I could watch the man I love be that person…no, I wouldn’t.  I will fight, as hard as I possibly can, to keep him safe.  He’s my man.  Mine.  No planetside fuck is going to take him away from me.  I laced up my dress boots, straightened my hat, and walked out.
The look on his face, mouth agape, made me blush a little.
“That good, huh?”
He smiled at me, raising his Band and snapping a pic.  “You fucking know it!  Holy shit, babe!  You look incredible!”  Getting up he came over.  Looked me over, felt weird.  Then he ran his hand over the name insignia on my chest.
“Pilot Barnes.  Awesome.  That uniform is so fucking hot on you.”
“A pity it’s a dress uniform.  Wouldn’t mind being peeled out of it.”
A wink.  “Well, maybe we’ll get to find out what that’s like yet, Pilot.”
“Yes sir!”
“Now, go change into your fatigues, Pilot!  I want to see how it looks!”
I snap to attention.  “Sir!”
Heading back into the bathroom, he pinches my ass.  I wheel around, looking indignant, but he just grabs me and kisses me.  This commanding officer role-play could be fun.  He seems to be enjoying himself.  Plus, given how nervous I feel, this makes me feel a lot better.
“Snap to, Pilot.”
“Yes sir,” I whisper, pulling back.

Back in the bathroom, I am very gentle about removing the dress uniform.  Not going to risk it getting wrinkled.  You wouldn’t believe it, but proper folding is something you learn in basic.  Among all sorts of nit-picky bullshit about the service.  I hang the uniform back up, and then turn to see where my fatigues are sitting on the counter.  It’s then that I catch sight of the implant modulator.  Like most women, I have an implant that I use as birth control.  I can automatically refill it.  It is dry.  Jack and I had been talking about having a baby for months.  Looking down at my hand, I see the engagement ring.  The wedding was supposed to be during the summer cycle.  We had it planned out that we could celebrate being pregnant at the same time as getting married.  Cut down on celebrations.  So many friends had already asked if I was carrying.  No luck yet.  But things had changed.  Now I was back on active duty.
I couldn’t risk getting pregnant now.  Taking out the modulator, I insert the end into skin where my implant is.  Part of me feels real shame.  Not only was I putting my wedding on hold, I was putting all of our plans on hold.  Even if we won the war, how long would I still be on active duty?  When would we get another chance to start a family?  It killed me inside, but it is what it is.  A pop, and the birth control injection is complete.  Another three years where I don’t have to worry about getting periods or having babies.  I’m sorry, Jack.  I’m so sorry.
Getting my mind back on more positive things, I open up my fatigues.  The pattern, so familiar, but just in different colors.  My name is on these as well.  Much easier to put on than my dress uniform, I slip in.  Should get into the issued-underwear.  That’s right, you have uniform underwear in the military.  It’s weird.  And a touch uncomfortable.  Oh well.  I’m doing this outfit, and I want to do it right.  Once I get everything situated, again I look at myself in the mirror.  It’s so strange.  This is some other girl.  Some girl I don’t know.  We’re just meeting for the first time.
“Hey you,” I say into the mirror.  “What’s your name?”  The girl just stares back at me.
“You say something, B?”
“No.  Just mumbling to myself.”  This girl and I would get very close, very soon.

I step out of the bathroom, and once again he is in awe.  Takes a pic on his Band, then sits on the edge of the bed.
“You look incredible.”
“Thanks.”
His eyes pierce right through me.  “You scared, babe?”
Don’t want to admit the truth, but I can’t lie to him.  “Yeah, I am.”
Then came a response I didn’t expect, “so am I.”
I look at him in shock.
“It’s not that I don’t think you’re a good pilot.  I know you are.  You’re gonna kick ass out there.  But wars are complicated.  All it could take is one thing going wrong and the wrong time.  Of course I’m scared.”
“Doesn’t help that if we lose, I’ll probably be taken to a military prison.  Or at the very least, lose my wings.”
“Yeah…”
We are there in silence for some time.
Finally, he looks up at me.  “Come here.”
Quietly, I obey.  He suddenly grabs my arm and throws me down onto the bed.  Pinning my arms above me, He gets on top of me.  My breathing is so fast.
“All we have is tonight.  At 0400, you head out, right?”
“Yeah.”
“Then let’s peel out of this uniform!”
A grin comes to my face.  “Yes sir!”

I wake up in his arms.  Naked, sticky, with my uniform and regulation underwear all over the room.  That was incredible.  I haven’t had sex like that in years.  Jack was an animal, but not once did I take issue.  All we had was tonight, and he made the most of it.  Still a little tingly.  Guess the orgasm didn’t fade just yet.  Ride the high, as it were, right?  Girls have it so much better than guys in this regard.  Pleasure is a different thing for women than men.  Get us into enough of a mood, and every part of our body is basically like a sex organ.  Our entire body becomes sensitive and reactive.  Erogenous zones become a none-issue.  That’s what happened to me just now.  Amazing.
Still, I won’t be able to go back to sleep.  Gotta do something.  Maybe a run will help.  I grab a quick shower, to get the sticky off.  Some places are just going to stay sticky for a while.  Can’t get up in there.  But it still feels good.  I throw on a tanktop, sweats, and my Colonial Navy sweater.  They gave us exercise clothes too.  Thought of everything.  Lace up my shoes, then head out.  It’s still cool.  The weather cycle is still in the morning.  I see my breath in the recycled air.  Still dark, too.  The night-time filter is still active.
I take off.  Moving at a gentle pace, the rhythm of running helps to calm my nerves.  It feels so good.  As I move down the dimly-lit pavement, I think about what Jack said.  He’s right.  Wars are unpredictable.  Anything can go wrong.  Everyone keeps telling me what a kick-ass pilot I am.  They might be right.  But I can’t go allowing myself to think that way.  The moment that I allow myself to start thinking that way is the moment I die.  I’ve watched far too many pilots get swept up by their own ego.  They stopped being cautious and careful.  And they paid the price for their arrogance.
Each step, I can’t help but notice that I am heading toward a destination – the port.  Why?  It then hits me – there is someone else that I need to say goodbye to.  A girl that I am not going to be seeing for a very long time.  Depending on how this plays out, maybe ever again.

She’s right where I left her.  The marks from where I was dodging impacts are still there.  Time was, I would already be here, around the time that I will be heading out, working on getting her back up to shape.  I’ve had some dangerous run-ins with meteors and other space weather.  Since the only person who touches my bird, outside of the crew who does replacements of hull plating, is myself, I took repairs very seriously.  Would test the girl after I was done, just to make sure everything was running smoothly.  Part of me couldn’t wait to be doing that to my new bird, whatever it would be.
My rig looked very sad, sitting there.  Like a wounded pet that you have to abandon.  That’s how I felt.  Like my dog got hurt and I had to leave it for a few years.  Yeah, kind of felt like a piece of shit.
“I’ll make sure she’s here waiting for you, when you get back.”
I turned and saw Red, standing there.
“I knew you’d come in to say goodbye to her.  I don’t care if we are back-logged to the point that ships have to wait outside, I won’t be moving her.  Hand to god.”
Walking over, I put my hand on his big, old, bushy beard.  “Thanks, Red.  But I don’t know when I’ll be back to see her.”
“Don’t matter to me.  If you never show up again, she’ll be right where you left her.  So long as I’m tending this dock, that’s how it will be.  And I’ll make sure that whoever replaces me knows it too.  The Queen Bee ain’t goin’ nowhere!  But I know you’ll be coming back.  Might be parking a fighter next to your girl, but you’ll be back.”  His big, gentle smile from beneath the gray hair.
I hug him tight.  “Take care of yourself, Red.”
“You too, Queen Bee.  Go kick ass out there!  Make those planetside bastards pay for the lives they’ve taken.”
Pulling back, I nod.  Time to get back home.  It will be a much longer jog back.

When I arrive, I see that the lights are on.  A familiar scent greets me as I get to the door.  What a man, I have.  A miner, and a cook.  When this is all over, he’s going to make one hell of a father.  That’s the plan.  After the war, no more modulation of the implant.  I want a baby with him.  First thing after I get back, we get married.  Then, we get pregnant.
Opening the door, he looks up at me.  “Welcome home, B.”

Until next time, a quote,

“Do your duty as you see it, and damn the consequences.” – George S. Patton

Peace out,

Maverick

A Hard Question

Another long day comes to an end.  I put Ellie to bed and now was settling in to watch some news before going to bed.  My days of being a journalism student in college still catch up to me.  The urge to keep informed about what is happening in the world.  Another Presidential election over.  The infotainment that is cable news has to find some new thing to milk into the ground with the fact-free reporting that they do.  The modern Fourth Estate is a joke.  I truly do believe in what it was supposed to represent, but now it is just a shadow of what the great journalists fought for.  When Edward R. Murrow took on Joseph McCarthy, when Walter Cronkite took on the government over the Vietnam War, when Ted Koppel took on the government over the Iran hostage crisis, they fought for what the news was supposed to mean.  But they were gone.  Sorry if I preached, but I still think about things like that, even now.
They said that becoming a dad would totally change me.  Sure, it changed my routine and how I look at the choices I make, but it didn’t magically turn me into a curmudgeon who is uber-conservative and believes that liberals are stupid.  I still believe the things that I believed then.  Only difference is that now I get to try and be the best dad that I can be while believing what I do.  I have taken a hard stance that I want to impart my values in a way where I give all sides their due.  I wasn’t going to teach my little girl what to think, but rather how to think, and let her come to her own conclusions.  Sure, it meant that for a while there, she believed that her deity was Santa Claus, but now she is at the top of her class and is the smartest child I have ever met.  Makes me wish she could see her.  I look at the pics on the wall, and my mind goes back.

I met her when I was in college.  The two of us immediately clicked.  Our weirdness meshed so well, and we were fast friends.  For a few years, life was good.  We would go out, have dinner, go to movies, see random things that happened in town that got both of our attention.  Was even dragged to a couple cultural festivals by the girl.  I was always a little apprehensive about going to things like that.  So different and random.  Really was my father’s son.  He hated new things, and would complain up to the point that he actually was there.  After that, once he was in the middle of whatever it was, he was enjoying himself.  Made for vacations where my mother would have to put up with him complaining all the way there, but I could tell that she knew that it would be worth it once he was there, just as excited as the rest of us.
One night, at a Japanese culture festival, the two of us were sitting and eating some noodles.  It was fantastic.  There was music playing and I didn’t want to be anywhere else.  That’s when I look over, wanting to say something to her, but she is already looking at me.  A look in her eyes, telling me that she had been looking at me for a while.  We just look into one-another’s eyes, and I don’t need to say anything else.  Her hand goes to my cheek, and I move in closer.  Each movement brings new rounds of butterflies inside that are driving me crazy, but I don’t stop.  Then our faces are so close.  When did this person who was nothing but a friend to me become something more?  I didn’t know, and I didn’t care.  Everything about this moment felt right.  Our lips met, in a soft embrace that I never wanted to end.  It was the first night that I felt like I was living since high school, where my last relationship ended.
It’s five years later.  We’re at the church that she grew up in.  I’m not a religious person, but she is.  I can put aside how I feel about it all, because this makes her and her family happy.  I’m saying “I do,” and tears are going down her face.  We embrace again, and everything is wonderful.
Two more years later, and we are pregnant.  She is so excited.  I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t scared out of my wits.  We both have good jobs.  Money isn’t something to be afraid of.  We made sure that we were ready before taking this step.  But even with all of that, I’m still scared to death.  What does it mean to be a dad?  Both of my parents have advice for me.  Hell, everyone has advice for me.  The entire fucking world is suddenly an expert on having children.  Not helping.  Not one bit.
We are sitting in a room, listening to a doctor.  She is telling us that my wife has cancer.  Due to the pregnancy, it is making her immune system weakened.  It just happened to come in at the right time.  My wife is scared for the baby, but the doctor said that it hasn’t gone to her reproductive system.  Facing her own mortality, the first thing she thinks about is the baby.  Admirable.  I wonder why.  I just want to save her.  The options we have are limited.  We can’t do chemo with the baby in there.  We’d kill it.  By the time the baby is done, it might be too late for more radical treatments.  It’s already in the second stage.  My wife is crying.  I think I am too.  Hard to tell.  My whole body feels numb.
It’s just after dawn when she goes into labor.  I get her to the car and drive like a bat out of hell to the hospital.  It’s not close.  She looks terrible.  The treatments for cancer that are safe, along with the progression are making her so sick.  So scared that delivering the baby will be dangerous.  Told her to do a c-section.  It’s safe, easy, and then it’s over.  She says no.  Wants to deliver this thing the normal way.  Stubborn woman.  Stupidly stubborn.  What’s the point of doing things that way if it’s an unnecessary risk?!
Being right never feels like a victory, for me.  I am watching as my baby is being wheeled away, while they get the crash cart.  Over and over, they attempt to restart her heart.  It doesn’t work.  Holding my newborn daughter in my arms, I watch my wife die.  What should be the most wonderful night of my life is when my heart is breaking.  I have so much that I have to do, only difference is that now I have to do it all on my own.  Never have I felt more alone.

My eyes open, as I see a light at the top of the stairs.  Down the stairs she comes.  Sitting up, I see that the TV had turned itself off due to inactivity.
“Dad, you up?” a voice calls.
“Yeah, in the living room.”
In her flannel pjs, I see the girl coming over.
“What’s wrong, sweetie?”
The look on her face, it’s concern, but awkward.  “I heard a noise, from down here.  I think you were talking in your sleep.  Heard you calling out to mom.”
A feeling of shame.  “Oh.  Sorry if I woke you.”
She sits down in a chair across from me on the couch.
“It’s okay.”  There is something more there.  “Can I, ask you something?”
Parent moment – she’s just shy of middle school.  The talk is coming.  Anytime I hear that question, I know that the big one is coming.
“Sure, kiddo.”
Looks down at the floor, then back up at me.  “Do you blame me, for happened to mom?”
It hurts.  I am physically hurting because of that question.  Not because it offends me or something, but because I have to wonder how long she has been carrying that question around in her head.  The girl was always eager to please, her whole life.  Anytime that I wasn’t at work, she would be where I am, doing whatever I do.  To this day, she still is like that.  Part of me thought that it was just a kid bonding with their parent, but maybe it was her trying to atone for what she feels like is her fault.  Maybe this is a talk I should have had with her a long time ago.
“Never!  What happened to your mother was not your fault.  Cancer can happen to anyone, at anytime.  Lady Luck just didn’t shine on her, is all.  It happens to all of us.”  Was that the right way to say it?
Tears started flowing down her face.  “I hear you, but you kept calling out to her, over and over.  You said, ‘don’t leave me.’  How can I not think that you don’t at least blame me a little for what happened to her?”
I motioned for her to sit down next to me.  “Now, don’t you go thinking that way!”  She got over and I put my arm around her.  “You coming into my life was the greatest day of my life.  Your mom was willing to risk getting sicker just so she wouldn’t have to put you in danger.  She told me that if the worst should happen, to promise that I would take care of you.  And I did.  With all my heart, I said that I would be the best dad that I could possibly be.  Not a day has gone by that I regret it.  Not one.  It was the hardest few months of my life, adjusting to taking care of you without her with me.  I needed a lot of help from grandma and grandpa.  But you are the greatest thing to ever come into my life.”  A gripping at my heart.  “And with you here, in a way, it’s like she never left us.  She’s with us both, right now, because you survived and are still here.  Never have I blamed you for what happened to her.  Not one time.  I miss her every day, but it’s not your fault.  Okay?”
All she could do is cry and burrow into me.  I held her close for a long time.  Then, I picked her up and carried her like a big cat upstairs.  Thank Groj I am such a big guy and have worked to take care of my body.  Hefted the big kid like she was nothing.  Laid her down on the bed and pulled the covers over her.
“Good night, baby-girl.”
“I love you, daddy.”
“I love you too.”
I don’t think there is a harder question in the world I could have been asked.  Suddenly, that other talk seems a hell of a lot easier.

Until next time, a quote,

“Grief is like an ocean; it comes in waves, ebbing and flowing.  Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming.  All we can do is learn to swim.” – Vicki Harrison

Peace out,

Maverick

A Fairytale

Once upon a time, there was a prince of a faraway land.

The prince was a happy boy, who brought happiness into the lives of everyone he touched.  The subjects loved him, and so did the royal family.  Everyone did.  The young prince believed that the happy years would go on forever.

But then there was an accident, and the young prince was asleep for a long time.  The dreams he had there were nice, and he didn’t want to leave.  But he was brought back into the waking world, and all that greeted him was pain.  The Prince wasn’t well.  His body wasn’t made right, and so he hurt.

For many years, the prince dealt with the pain, all while trying not to let the royal family or his subjects see how hard it was.  It worked, for a while.  However, as the years went on, the prince found a darkness inside of him.  A dark passenger that he carries with him, to this day.

Once the pain in his body was gone, the prince tried to resume life as he had before the accident.  But life had changed.  Everyone in the prince’s life had become a different person.  They weren’t waiting for the prince anymore.  They had gone their own way.  The prince was sad.  He tried to bond with them again, but it didn’t work.

The prince left the kingdom, to go to a faraway school, which would prepare him to rule his kingdom, now that he was an adult.  The prince decided he was going to meet new people here, and make lots of new friends.  And so he did.  More years went by, and life was good again.

But, one by one, the new friends left.  Some hurt the prince in a way he couldn’t describe.  It was making the prince’s dark passenger very powerful inside.  The dark presence whispered things to him, about how everyone will hate him and how nobody really cares.  The prince started to believe in it, after a while.

So the prince tried to hold on to the friends he had, but it just made things worse.  He was so in need, and they couldn’t help him.  After a while, the prince was alone in this faraway land, as lost as when he arrived.  But all that is left for him in his kingdom is the royal family.  He loves them with all his heart, but it isn’t enough for the his lost and wayward heart.

Now, the prince has hatched a plan.  A plan to head away from this kingdom to one even farther away.  But deep down, the prince doesn’t actually believe it will work.  He just tells himself that it will, to try and fight his dark passenger.  The prince hates the dark passenger, and wishes he would go away.  But he never does.

There’s no happy ending to the prince’s story.  It still continues.  Perhaps one day, the prince will find a kingdom where he doesn’t have to hurt anymore.  It’s a little dream.

Until next time, a quote,

“Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” – G.K. Chesterton

Peace out,

Maverick