Sorrow hung over
the crew of the Vegranian on the return flight to
Ringali Nebula. Derek Atio was dead. The realization
hadn't fully settled in over Commander Xergo. In fact,
her mind was still pushing forward. Jelena was
free...well, semi free. Riley and Jason were in charge
of ensuring that the whole damn crew didn't blow up
thanks to the device planted inside of the Rodney girl.
Iyah's top priority was making sure she didn't
hazardously crash the ship in an emotional storm. Each
time she blinked, she processed what had happened a
little more. Looking through a soldier's eyes, what
Derek had done was heroic. People had received medals
and recognition for less. In the eyes of a girl who had
run from the Empire into that very man's security, it
was idiotic. She was angry! What had he given his life
for? A noble brat? It seemed like Rodneys had been
causing all kinds of trouble in her life. First Julius,
and his inability to keep his cock in his pants. All she
wanted to do was crawl back to Blue Haven. There, she
could hide with her family and pretend that Derek hadn't
She brought the
ship down much more smoothly than she thought she was
capable of. The sight of the converted gas station was
relieving compared to what she had come from. The
mission wasn't successful ... not fully anyway. Was one
life worth another? Now came one of the most daunting
tasks, relaying that Derek had died to Emi. With her
head held low, she killed the engines. She said nothing
to Jelena as she departed from the ship. She wanted to
rip this part off like a bandaid. After that, she could
go home and lick her wounds.
Commander in Chief, sat in her seat in the control room.
A mission was underway, and she really had hoped to hear
more about it through standard communication. A little
under dressed for the occasion, boots, khaki pants, a
grey tunic. That dark hair was up in a simple ponytail.
She was waiting, unable to sleep in hopes that those
people that put their lives on the line to protect and
serve would all come back, that the mission had been a
success. Emi was looking out a viewport, small little
white dots covered that blanket of black sky. The
vastness in which they lived, conducted their duties,
served the people and all the reaches that they could.
Her elbow rested on the armrest of her chair as her feet
rested on one of the ledges of the many buttoned control
tops. Chin rested in her palm as she sat in thought for
a good part of the time she had to herself. Heavy lids
began to shade over those mocha colored eyes. In her own
thoughts she had managed to drift off to sleep. Perhaps
it was too much thinking that did her in for the time
being, she'd always been a light sleeper though. With
her job, it wasn't hard.
felt like a zombie at this point. She wanted to find a
cave where she could hibernate for roughly the next five
hundred years. The deathly, sickening stench of her
uniform seemed to bother her now more than ever.
Suddenly she felt guilty for mentally laughing at
Derek's ripped pants. Maybe she should have helped him
cover up. She would spend the rest of her life second
guessing everything she had done to help rescue Jelena.
No soldier left behind? No. Iyah had left Derek's body
behind. It would make his death even harder for those
who had not seen it to comprehend it. Her booted feet
carried her towards the control room where she found
Emi. It seemed like this was a sleepless night for all.
She approached her slowly. "Ambassador, we have rescued
Jelena." She stated as robotically as possible. Her
emotions were held back by a weakening dam. It looked
like she'd been through something. Her uniform was
messy. Her slick, black hair was a mess. Half of it was
contained in her ponytail, while the other half looked
like it had been yanked out by the stressed Commander.
Her brown eyes diverted away from Emi's. "We... We had a
casualty." Iyah's words stopped there. She couldn't say
it. Saying it would make it a reality. The words formed
behind her lips. They sat at the tip of her tongue. In
her mind, she said it so easy; *Derek is dead*. She
could even imagine herself saying it like she was
detached from the situation. She inhaled.
name came out in a squeak. All at once, the dam broke.
Emotions came crashing in. They were massively
overwhelming. Iyah's heart ached. There were tears
streaming down her cheeks. There was nothing more she
could say to explain the situation, not right now
Those boot covered
feet grew louder as she could almost seem like that
drowsy sound was the sound of her own heart beating in
time with Commander Xergo's steps. Emi heard a voice as
those eyelids fluttered open and she gave a slight snort
as she came to. "I'm... awake," Emi insisted as she saw
the silhouetted figure that belonged to Commander Xergo
now in front of her. She heard those words and gave a
nod. Those boot covered feet moved from the panel to the
floor as she began to stand up from her seat. Casualty.
There was that word she never wanted or ever liked
hearing. She could already feel a lump grow in her
throat as her eyes shot up at Commander Xergo. "My
condolences to your crew..." But before she could even
offer her any further words, the name came out.
*No. No. No. No.
She's mistaken. It can't be.* Denial, the first stage.
Eyes shot wide open before she could even really react.
Immediately she scrambled to her feet as she looked at
Commander Xergo and let those nostrils flare. "How?
Who's fault was it? Who blew the mission? *Tell me*!"
Anger, the second stage.
Her tears didn't
dry up, however, Emi's reaction pounded a crazy button
inside of Iyah's mind. She had endured so much over the
past week. Her fiance nearly lost his life for the sake
of a dying old man. Her mentor had been killed before
her eyes. It was then that an inevitable *snap*
happened. "No one blew the mission!" She bitterly
snapped at Emi, taking a step into her personal bubble.
"The god damn Inquisitor showed up! She *sensed* Jelena.
She knew we had her!" Iyah's voice had risen much more
quickly than she realized. "He stupidly gave us the out
by sacrificing himself. He got himself killed for *her*!
Her!" Iyah's cheeks had turned red. Her blood pressure
had exploded. "And there was nothing we could do!" She
stepped away from Emi, slamming herself in typical
teenager fashion, into a chair. Her fingers raked
through her hair in pure frustration. She could have
taken Derek's place. She could have done this...she could
have done that. Ultimately, nothing had ended in the way
she imagined it. Iyah was actively crying. Even as she
was furious, her nose was stuffy. She was so mad at him.
It was his fault! She had no idea how she could even
return to Delaya. She didn't know how she was going to
relate all this information to anyone else. She would
rather bury the hatchet right here and never talk about
it again. Her head fell into her hands. It was too much
weight for her to hold up anymore. Her shoulder slunked.
Her back was shaking while she cried. Some Commander she
was. Some Commander.
Emi blinked a few
times, staring at the Commander. A ringing in her head,
as if it was put there as a failsafe to anything she
didn't want to hear. Head moved from side to side as she
shook her head. Her hands dipped behind her to steady
herself back into that chair as her whole body began to
shake. Commander Atio was her friend. Not just someone
she worked closely with, but someone she looked to for
inspiration. Was he really dead? Was this some elaborate
hoax? Maybe if she stepped down as Commander in Chief...
Bargaining, the third step.
"Of course ...
he..." she couldn't even finish the sentence. She gave a
small gasp as her hand moved to cover her mouth. The way
Commander Xergo was acting, there wasn't any way she was
lying. Those brown eyes shaded once again by falling
lids. Another small gasp was let out as those olive
toned cheeks would have tears streaming down them.
Caught in the right light, they could be seen. A sob or
two escaped her lips from under her hand as she slumped
back into that chair. She could feel her whole body
shake slightly as she soon would bury her head in her
hands. Depression, the fourth stage.
The scene in the
control room was dim. Both women were shaken by the
death of a friend. Iyah was already trying to place the
whole thing under a magnifying glass. She couldn't
accept things as they were. Surely she could wind back
time. Surely she would wake from her sleep. Her face
briefly withdrew from her hands. It was hard to focus on
Emi, especially in the dark. She could see that she was
also crying. She was hurt by all of this too. Many tears
would be shed for Derek. Despite his death, they had to
keep moving forward. It was necessary to make his
sacrifice worth something. As badly as Iyah wanted to
race home and take the childish route of hiding in her
blankets, she knew she had to keep going. Still, her
tears weren't ready to stop. The more she brushed away,
the more replaced them. Weakly, she forced her feet
beneath her. Standing upright, it seemed like her body
had gained the weight of another person. She had become
less aggressive. Now she was raw.
She approached Emi
with slow, cautious steps. When she was within arm's
reach, she planted a hand on the woman's shoulder and
squeezed. What more could they do? They had to support
each other. "I'll be returning to Delaya within the next
few hours. I can return Jelena back to her family
there." Her voice was only somewhat steady. She didn't
know what had happened while she was gone. What she
*did* know was that her little girl would be waiting for
her. And what of her husband to be? He had to be losing
his mind without her to scare the mess of Rodneys away.
Mentally, she found a happy place clinging to those she
loved. The tears, once more, needed to wait.
Emi took a long
moment. It hit her, hard. Her friend was gone. Killed in
the line of duty. Before she knew it, she felt a squeeze
on her shoulder. Palms pressed against her eyes as she
wiped away those tears. Palms placed at her knees as she
wiped those tears from her palm to those khakis. A lone
nod was given to Commander Xergo as she pushed herself
from her chair. She was still shaken. Emi cleared her
throat in an attempt to try to get the lump out. She had
a job to do. "Do what you have to do, I'll release the
information to the proper people and begin to work out a
service. I'm guessing there is no body?" She got a bit
weak in the knees as she asked that question. Something
in the look of Commander Xergo's eyes, she knew that she
wasn't lying. She was. Just as in shock as she was.
"Thank you for completing the mission. War isn't war
without casualties. Commander Atio knew what he was
doing when he signed up. We have to be as strong as
him... as he was." That last part stung. "We must all be
willing to die for our cause. Please, do what you need
to to gather yourself and reach out to anyone you'd need
in returning Jelena to her family. I will take care of
the rest here. You are welcome to bereavement leave if
you need it. We shall be in contact soon. Until then,
may the force be with you." She had to get out of the
control room as it started to get smaller. And without
so much as a nod, the woman made a beeline for the exit
and to her chambers.
fifth and final stage of grief.