Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
We dash around a long curve that should get us out of their sights for a while.
“In all those old films we watched, fighting the evil empire involved a lot less running away from angry warriors with frighteningly accurate weapons.”
Freya looks back, snaps off a deterring shot, grins at me, then looks ahead before replying: “The accurate ones are million-credit death machines. They won’t risk them in pursuing rabble.”
“We’re rabble? I thought the word was ‘rebel’?”
“Semantics, Paul, semantics. We’re the opposition. Any name that distinguishes us from the Roekuld is fine.”
“That’s remarkably accommodating of you. Now, how do we avoid being called ‘dead’?”
She lashes out, flicking the end of my nose: “Less sarcasm.”
We pelt down a featureless corridor somewhere in the outer hull maintenance spaces of a Margantor-class interstellar dreadnought, the pinnacle of Roekuld interstellar warships.
“What makes you fight, Paul?”
I go cold. She glances at me as we continue to run. What a time to be found out.
“I joined because you did. My dad’s in the Watch. I would have joined him, but-”
She pulls up short and trips me. Automated pest-suppression beams crackle through the space where we would have been.
Sliding across to lean on my chest, she stares into my eyes.
“But you fancied my lively brown eyes and ready smile? Or was it my pert arse and long legs? Maybe even my passable intelligence and rapier wit? Oh, you wonderful fool. You still don’t know, do you?”
She rolls off me.
Stung, I try to save a little face as we scramble up and get back to running.
“What makes you fight, then?”
As we turn a corner, I see an aperture, the pale blue glow of its containment field glowing, down by the next corner.
She slows as we approach that corner: “It’ll do, providing they haven’t got ahead of us.”
Firing up our atmosphere helms, we peek round the corner and see the svelte forms of a pair of Craszen combat droids at the end of this corridor.
I do some calculations in my head: “We’ll still be in range when they make it here. There’s no cover within any distance we can achieve.”
The boot to my lower back propels me through the field before I can grab a hold.
“Not if someone who knows how to fight holds them off.”
I spiral out, rotating so I can see her face.
Her voice is quiet: “You want to know why I fight? I fight because someone has to. Humanity is not done. Every act of defiance gives hope. Every person who lives to fight another day carries stories of those who gave their lives for that.”
I hear her sniff.
Then she whispers: “So every Paul I’ve come to love, only to find he joined up for the wrong reasons, can find a cause or quit and go back to the life he should have had.”
She smiles, then spins and falls prone. I see the lilac flashes of her – I check my belt – and my blaster. Engaging full boost on my thrusters, I orient myself to witness her last battle for as long as possible.
Commander Ettisen gave her life for me. Me! Naïve and horny from the same college on Tammaloren.
I found a cause, Freya. There will come a day when those I lead will need me to do what you just did. If the Summerlands you spoke of actually exist, please wait for me.