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2307_angelstrike_chapter7

It takes a strong mind to kill another human being.  Some become hard and uncaring.  Some minds scream in protest at it.  The fires of war destroy some people.  Some people become stronger, become what they need to be to survive.  Some people fail and their mind fractures.  I learned long ago that killing is hard.  Killing face to face is harder.  What is hardest of all is living on as if nothing is wrong after taking human lives.

 

 

Adamant

 

Machineguns chewed through armor and debris while tracers lit up the battlefield like laser beams.  Missiles streaked across the battlefield and the air itself wavered as lasers burned anything they touched.  Mortars dropped from the sky and flames burned everything in sight.

Captain Jack Hart walked into the manmade Hell with machineguns firing at maximum rate.  He swung his arms from target to target and the arm-mounted guns spat death.  His shoulder-mounted gun buzzed like a chainsaw.  Bullets bounced off his powered armor and he rode with the impacts.  He leaned to the side and a missile shot through the space he’d just been in, the exhaust scorching his Hellhound’s outer armor with its passage.

A single damaged vehicle led the charge of three human figures in powered armor and one armored android through that Hell and they spat death at the enemy.  He watched the enemy fall by the dozens.  Weapons fire came from every direction as the local Serenity soldiers and United States Marines joined the assault and the Chinese died by the hundreds.  The counterattack swept across the battlefield and the Chinese invasion force evaporated.  Others would have surrendered.  But the Chinese soldiers had grown up reading Sun Tzu.  “In difficult ground, press on.  On hemmed-in ground, use subterfuge.  In death ground, fight.”  They fought.

Jack strode through the nightmare of fire and death.  All he had to do was point at a man or woman and they died.  He was the chooser of the slain.  He’d killed more Shang and Chinese than he could count, but this was different.  He could see their faces and count their breaths.  He watched their eyes lose focus and the scent of death filled his nostrils.

Jack had never felt so much power.  It was breathtaking.  Jack had never felt so alive.  It was terrifying.  Jack had never seen so much death.  It was soul crushing.  Jack had never seen so much suffering.  He was the cause of it all.  He was the killer.  He quailed at the realization.  He didn’t want to be a killer.  He didn’t want this wanton slaughter.  He tried to stop but his body continued to move with merciless speed.  He pointed and people died.  He tried to shut his eyes but they saw everything.  He tried to scream but his voice was silent.

”It’s okay,” a voice said in his ear and a new smell tickled his nose.  Chamomile.

Chamomile did not belong on a battlefield.

“It’s okay, Jack,” Natalie whispered and he could feel her android body holding him tight.  “It was just another nightmare.”

He opened his eyes to see the bulkheads of his small quarters in Los Angeles.  The battle was over.  Over.  Just like every morning.  He tried to speak but his ravaged vocal cords just squeaked.  He’d been screaming in his sleep again.

“Everything will be alright,” Natalie soothed and he let out a very long breath into her shoulder.

He coughed and tried to speak again.  “I’m…sorry.” It came out as a dull rasp.

“Don’t be.”

He blinked and cleared his throat.  “I…don’t want to do that again.”  He’d been killing the Shang and Chinese for two years.  It was fun.  He enjoyed it.  At least he thought he had.  But now he couldn’t push the reality of just how ugly war was out of his mind.

“I know.”  Natalie’s soothing voice massaged his battered mind with understanding.

He blinked again.  They were not tears.  He was not crying.  “What’s wrong with me?”

“Nothing.”  Natalie gave him a supportive smile.  “You’re good.”

Jack tried to laugh but it came out closer to…not a sob.  “I don’t feel good,” he admitted though.

Natalie laid a hand on his chest.  “It hurts you to hurt people.  That’s good.  If it ever stops hurting, then I’m going to have to start worrying about you.”  She made a theatrical sniff after saying that.  “Now I just worry that you need a shower.”

Jack’s response was much closer to a laugh this time.  At least he fervently hoped it was.  He decided it was and that was good enough for him.  “Yes, Ma’am,” he finally whispered and levered himself out of bed.

She helped him stand and guided him to the small shower.  He stopped at the entrance, not wanting to let go of his anchor but not certain what to do next.  He really did need to shower.  But he didn’t want to be alone either.  Maybe the shower wasn’t necessary after all.  He aimed a questioning look at her.

Her laughter washed over him like warm sunlight on a spring morning.  “I’m not going to shower with you.”

He blinked.  He hadn’t actually thought about that.  But now that she mentioned it he didn’t mind the visual.

Natalie rolled her eyes and pushed him.  “Go on.  Get in there.”

He didn’t fight her and she turned on the water before shutting the door to leave him alone.  All alone.  More alone than he could remember feeling in a long time.  Real warm water ran down his face and body, and more tears than he wanted to admit flowed down with it.  It washed the stink of sleep and terror dreams from his skin, but couldn’t touch the memories.  “Oh God,” he whispered, not certain himself if he was swearing or praying, and the tears came stronger.  He stood sobbing with the water running down his body for an eternity.

And then he opened his eyes.  Only the comforting bulkheads of Los Angeles surrounded him.  He was safe from the dead he’d left behind.  He breathed in and out, sucking in great mouthfuls of clean air as the water continued to cleanse him.  He felt new again.  Fresh.  Good.  Well, maybe not good.  Probably more like all right.  Mostly right.  Not so bad.  Jack laughed at the sliding scale he was giving himself, and at least this time he was certain it was a laugh.  He nodded in shaky approval and stepped out of the shower to grasp a towel.

A few seconds later he was dry and ready for another day.

He stepped back into in his quarters and scanned them.  His Marine dress whites hung from the bulkhead his bunk had folded into.  He stared at them for a moment before turning to Natalie.  She stood next to his bed with a calm smile that would never suggest he’d woken up anything other than ready.  Their morning ritual was working just fine.  Though the dress whites were not normal.  “What’s up?” he asked.

“Reinforcements have arrived.”

Something clicked in Jack’s mind.  Long-denied hope bloomed even as realistic protests clambered at him that there was no hope.  Seven days was too long to lose on a forty-lightyear trip.  But he still asked, “Enterprise?”

Natalie shook her head and Jack’s hope failed.  “Aneerin’s fleet,” Natalie clarified at his look.

“Oh,” Jack whispered, disappointment coloring his tone.  Then he began to do what he did every day.  He buried the feeling of loss under the façade that was Captain Jack Hart.

Natalie gave him an understanding smile.  “They surfaced a few minutes ago and are moving into orbit as we speak.”  She aimed a meaningful glance at the dress whites.  “You should wear the good stuff.  Aneerin is coming, and you should look your best when you meet your commanding officer.”  She looked down with a meaningful gaze.  “And red and white boxers will not do that.”

Jack gave her a weak smile.  “How about the black ones?”

“No.”

“Pink?” Jack asked with something like real amusement.

Natalie sighed in his general direction.  “Do you even have any pink ones?”

“No,” Jack said with a frown.  “But maybe I should get some.”

Natalie waved towards the uniform.  “Get dressed.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Jack said and reached out for the uniform.  He slipped on the white shirt first and snapped it up with quick precision.  Then he put the white pants on, one foot at a time like everybody else.  There was a lesson in that but Jack didn’t feel like dwelling on it at the moment.  The white cowboy boots came next, fingers pulling them on through the loops.  His feet popped into place in the boots and he came to his feet to swing his way into the white jacket.  More snaps fitted it in place and Jack smiled as he reached for the white cowboy hat that completed the Republic of Texas Marine Corps dress uniform.  He dropped it on his head and turned to the mirror with a smile.

The uniform was clean and white, a solemn promise the wearer was above reproach, an honorable defender of the Republic of Texas.  And maybe the United States of America when they were feeling generous.  Jack was pretty certain he’d fail on being above reproach, but he actually liked the monkey suit.  It felt good to slip it on and let its history sink into him.  American Marines had worn dress uniforms similar to this for five centuries and he always imagined he could feel them standing behind him.  He hoped they approved.  Or tacitly accepted at least.  On third thought he’d be happy to escape their disapproval.  Jack sighed and smiled.  Between the shower and the new uniform, Jack felt like a new man.  Or at least a modestly recycled man.

Jack turned away from the mirror and aimed what might actually be a real smile at Natalie.  “Verdict?”

“You look good,” Natalie said with one thumb raised.

“Just one thumb up?” Jack asked in a disappointed tone.

Natalie raised one eyebrow at him.  “Unlike some who shall remain nameless, I will not pander to your delusions of grandeur.”

Jack laughed out loud and it felt good.  It felt…maybe just a bit fantastic.  He nodded and smiled at her.  “Thank you for that.”

“Thank you for saving my sanity,” Natalie said with a smile.

Jack nodded and placed a hand on her shoulder as he leaned in close.  “Any time.”

Natalie covered his hand with one of hers and the smell of Chamomile filled his world again as she whispered, “I hope you don’t need to do it again.”

“From your lips to God’s ears,” Jack said.

Natalie laughed and shooed him towards the hatch.  “Out you.  Aneerin’s coming.  You should meet him.”

Jack frowned at her from the hatch.  “You’re not coming?”

“No.  I need some time to think,” she said and shook her head.

Jack’s frown deepened.  That sounded ominous.  Not as deathly terrifying as “we need to talk” but certainly on a level with “are you sure you want to do that?”

“Need a sounding board?” Jack asked, trying valiantly to maintain a calm demeanor.

“It’s not like that,” Natalie said with a laugh and stepped over to push him out.  “Now get out of here.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Jack answered and turned into the very short rabbit warren of corridors leading to the main hangar bay.  He hadn’t been an official onboard pilot so he didn’t have the pilot quarters directly next to it, but at least they’d found him something close.  And it was more private than the pilot quarters, something he’d been grateful for in recent days.  It wouldn’t do any good to his reputation for anyone to see Captain Jack Hart crying over dead Chinese.

Jack veered away from that rabbit hole of thoughts and stepped into the hangar bay to see activity everywhere.  Marine shuttles, tanks, and mechs littered the decks above and below with technicians trying to bring them back online.  The ruins of fighters occupied another corner of the bay, while those still working readied themselves for another sortie.  The Battle of Serenity was over, but Los Angeles had to be ready to defend the world against anything that came along thinking it was easy pickings.  She was the last and only line of defense the planet had at the moment.

Or at least she had been.  Jack’s eyes strayed out through the open hangar bay doors to see the Guardian Light hanging in the star spangled space.  She was a gleaming white spire a kilometer long with a glowing weapons ring wrapping around her.  Four gravitic cannons that had to be nearly half a kilometer long on their own spun around the central cylinder in time with the gentle circuit the weapons ring made each minute.  It was a quite literally otherworldly sight and Jack wondered yet again what it had been like to see that ship for the first time.

“Wow,” Jack whispered.

“He is a beautiful ship,” Captain Wyatt said and Jack turned to see her for the first time.  Well, that wasn’t entirely accurate.  His eyes had scanned her as he entered, but she’d just been part of the general chaos of the hangar bay to his conscious mind until the moment she spoke.  But now he couldn’t imagine her white uniform being anything other than that belonging to the captain and “Mistress after God” of the warship that had become his home.  She beckoned him over with a twitch of her head and a smile.

“From your lips to God’s ears,” Jack said for the second time this morning and walked over to stand next to her.

“How are you today?” she asked, not turning her head but he could feel her eyes on him.

“Been better,” Jack said honestly.  “Been worse.  I can say I’m alive though.”

Wyatt smiled.  “And any day you can wake up and say that is a good one?”

“Absolutely.”  Jack studied her for a moment from the corner of his eye, taking in the uniform perfectly tailored to compliment her frame without making it look like she was advertising it.  She looked good.  In more ways than one.  But still, he had to be sure.  “And you?”

Wyatt’s smile grew and she actually turned towards him for a second.  “I’m alive.”  Then her smile became truly happy.  “And we found another escape pod today.”

Jack blinked and turned to face her.  “Who?”  Dozens of warships had died over, or sometimes on, Serenity during the battle and they’d been picking up escape pods ever since.  Those with working transmitters had been found right away.  Those running silent due to damage or other reasons were much harder to find.

Harrington’s bridge crew,” Wyatt said.  “They took the last pod out a few seconds before she crashed and the shockwave broke everything in it.”

Jack sobered.  “How are they?”

Wyatt shook her head.  “Lucky to be alive.  But they are alive.  We’ll have them walking again in time to sail the next Harrington out of New Yosemite,” she said with a wink.  “They’ve already called dibs on her.”

Jack imagined that with a smile.  “Faith has got to be ecstatic.”

“She was beside herself.  Literally.”  Wyatt chuckled.  “She welcomed them all at the same time.

Jack shook his head.  Cybers didn’t normally show more than one holoform at a time.  It was a decidedly inhuman ability that they avoided like the plague unless they had no choice.  She must have been very excited to violate that practice.  He was about to say something when his eyes caught movement and he turned to see it.

A gleaming white shuttle slipped through the energy curtain holding the atmosphere in and came to a graceful landing in an open part of the hangar bay deck.  She was as graceful as the warship she flew off, long and lean with pointed tips on either end.  Something from an age long ago, or maybe one yet to come.  It was hard to decide where Peloran warships fit in human history because they just didn’t.  He’d been with the obviously Terran warships of Third Fleet for months and now his eyes saw just how alien the Peloran warships were once again.

A hatch in the shuttle’s mid section opened with a quiet hiss and lowered to become a ramp that two men walked down.  Jack smiled as he recognized them.  The first wore a white uniform identical to his.  Charles Edward Hurst walked like a son of one of the richest families in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  One of the richest families on Earth if Jack was being honest.  Which made it one of the richest families in all human space.  The Terran branch of humanity at least.

The second man was the one that made Jack’s mouth go dry.  He was human.  There was no doubting that.  But his white uniform sported lines and tailoring no Western Alliance military had ever used.  And very few humans born of Earth could boast of wearing the sharp and angular features of this man.  Even fewer had the pointed ears barely visible beneath his long hair.  Aneerin walked with the competent grace of a civilized killing machine.  Every Peloran ever born was a killing machine, a legacy of the genetic engineering that made them supersoldiers.  The man could snap every person on this ship in half, with the possible exception of Jack and Charles.  Jack fervently hoped he would never have to find out.

“Captain,” Aneerin said with a bow of the head towards Wyatt.  “Major,” he added in Jack’s direction, giving him the honorary promotion tradition demanded.  There was only ever one captain aboard ship.  Charles echoed his words and motions and Jack smiled.

“Admiral,” he responded towards Aneerin and turned to Charles.  “Real Major.”  He saw Wyatt turn towards him in the corner of his eye and he smiled at her.  “What?  It’s true.”

Wyatt shook her head and turned back to the two visitors.  “Admiral.  Major.  Welcome aboard.  It’s an honor to have you.”

“It is an honor to be here,” Aneerin responded.  “It is not every day one meets a person who saved a planet.”

“I didn’t save it,” Wyatt corrected.  “Many men died for this victory.”

“I know.”  Aneerin gave her an approving look.  “You and yours are all war heroes for what you did here.  Never forget that.”

Jack shivered at Aneerin’s tone.  Something was wrong here.

“Thank you,” Wyatt said with a nod and Aneerin turned his steady gaze towards Jack.

“You did well.”

Jack frowned and looked away.  “I lost Snake.”

Aneerin pursed his lips.  “It is not our job to save the lives of all those we command, but to spend those lives wisely.”

Jack gritted his teeth in disagreement.  “While losing three hundred warships?”

Aneerin blinked.  “You saved Natalie.  You saved Los Angeles.  You saved Serenity.  And you brought us word of this new Shang weapon.  Each of those victories will change The War far more than you can possibly imagine.”

Jack shook his head.  “I think you overestimate things.”

Aneerin smiled.  “And I think you underestimate things.  You are aware of the nail?”

Jack scowled at him.  “Is this really the time for poetry?”

Aneerin nodded slowly.  “’For want of a nail a horseshoe was lost,’” he quoted.  “And the horse and the rider and the battle and the war,” he paraphrased and looked around the hangar bay.  “Everything here is as valuable as that nail.  We will need them all if we are to win this.”

Aneerin turned back to Wyatt and pulled something out of a uniform pocket.  He held it out and Jack saw a silver pin shaped like a stylized sun and moon.  It was real silver.  Jack recognized it.  Every Peloran Confederation Battle Fleet captain wore one.  “Will you accept this?”

Wyatt’s eyes widened as she looked at it.  They didn’t come in boxes of Cracker Jacks, after all.  “I don’t think I should.”

Aneerin cocked his head in curiosity.  “Why not?”

“I already have a commission,” Wyatt said.

Aneerin waved a hand towards the silver moon and stars emblem on Jack’s uniform.  “So do they.”  Only Peloran fighter pilots and those welcomed into their service wore them.  And the genetically-engineered Peloran considered very few people worthy of that service.

Wyatt’s mouth opened and closed and Jack realized she was at a loss for words.  He’d thought that was impossible.  “Why?” she finally pushed out after several seconds.

Aneerin continued to hold the pin out for her.  “Because you earned it.”

Wyatt shook her head and stepped back with hands raised in a defensive gesture.  “I’m not comfortable with this.”

Aneerin did not move as he continued to study her.  “Why not?”

She glanced at Jack.  “No offense, but I’ve seen the way he plays with the chain of command.  I don’t want anything to do with that.  I am American.  I serve in the navy of the United States of America.  I will not spread my allegiance.  Period.”

Aneerin nodded in approval.  “I understand.”  Then he smiled.  “Jack.”  Jack glanced towards him and Aneerin tossed the pin up into the air towards him.

Jack snatched it out of the air without hesitation but frowned at the much older man.  “No offense, but I don’t normally go for sloppy seconds.”

Aneerin chuckled.  “It is not yours.”

“Oh, thank God,” Jack said in forced relief.  “I didn’t want to be a fleet captain anyways.”

Aneerin turned back to Wyatt.  “The offer has been made.  I will not rescind it.  The pin and everything that goes with it belongs to you.  He will hold it until you are willing to accept it.”

Wyatt actually swallowed and Jack realized how nervous she was.  But she didn’t back down and Jack had to give her props for that.  “I’m honored.  But don’t hold your breath.”

Aneerin smiled at her.  “It speaks well of you to be so loyal.  I will be honored to fight beside you in the future, Captain.  Whatever insignia you wear.”  The Peloran bowed deep in a most unmilitary fashion, rose back up, and took in a long look around the hangar bay.  “You have a beautiful ship, but I have other duties that must be attended to.  By your leave?”

“Given,” she answered with a bow of her head.

“Will you walk with me?” Aneerin asked as he stepped past Jack.

“Sure,” Jack answered and turned to follow.  Charles remained though, and Jack paused.  Aneerin’s hand pulled him away and Jack gave the much older man a questioning look.

“Give him a few moments, please?” the Peloran asked and Jack allowed the man to lead him away.  He kept an eye on Charles though and saw one hand slipping into a pocket and bringing out a small piece of paper.

When he handed it out to Wyatt she looked at it doubtfully.  “What is that?”

“A business card,” Jack heard him say.  Charles sighed in response to her disbelieving look.  “I happen to be a traditionalist.”

Wyatt accepted the business card with a raised eyebrow.  “Why are you giving me this?”

“I am putting together a project on the side.  One that needs good ship captains.”

Wyatt shook her head.  “I already turned down Aneerin.  What makes you think I would accept your proposal?”

“Because the project I am organizing will change the future.”  He looked around the hanger with a sly smile.  “Much like this little project has done.”

Wyatt’s eyes narrowed.  “What do you mean?”

“I plan to colonize a new world in Alien space,” Charles said with a conspirator’s voice.

“Colonize?  Right now?”  Wyatt’s voice was in the full disbelieving range.  “You are aware there is a War going on?”

“Intimately,” Charles answered.  “They are threatened by us.  They attacked us because they are afraid of what we will do, of what we will become if they let us.  And if we let them deny us that future, they win.”  Charles paused and leaned closer to her.  “I will not allow that.  We are going to tell them that we are no longer children squabbling over the sandbox of our tiny little planet.  We are coming.  We are still coming.  No matter what they do to us we will always be coming.  They will not bottle us up in our little corner of the galaxy forever.  Because we will never give up on our future.”

Wyatt pulled in a long breath and examined him far more closely.  “That’s a pretty speech.  Did you practice it?”

“In the mirror,” Charles answered with a wry smile.  “Do you like it?”

“Yes.”  Wyatt shook her head and slipped the card into her pocket.  “But I’m very much afraid that I will have to decline your offer.”

“She says as she pockets the card,” Jack whispered.

“He has a gift,” Aneerin returned.

“Absolutely.”

Charles acted as if he didn’t hear a word from the peanuts gallery and held Wyatt’s gaze.  “If that is your final answer, I believe I will go endure a briefing from a certain juvenile delinquent we both know.”

Wyatt laughed.  “Good luck.”

“Are they talking about me?” Jack asked.

Aneerin smiled.  “Can you think of anyone else who would fit the description?”

Jack snorted.  “Not helping.”

“So how are you?” Aneerin asked and Jack froze.  He hadn’t expected that question from the man.

“I’m alive,” he said in a guarded tone.

“Ah yes,” Aneerin returned with a wry smile.  “And any morning you can wake up and say that is a good morning.”

“Absolutely.”

Aneerin sighed.  “I understand you have engaged in ground combat.”

“’Every Marine is a rifleman,’” Jack quoted the old adage but made no other answer.  He really didn’t feel like talking about it.

“I also understand it was your first time.”

Jack aimed a raised eyebrow at Aneerin.  “Your point?”

Aneerin turned to face Jack and their gazes met.  Aneerin’s eyes betrayed the memories of a man who had been fighting since before Caesar crossed the Rubicon into Italy and formed the Roman Empire.  “Do you trust me when I say that I have been there?”  Aneerin’s face showed more steely gentleness than Jack had ever seen on it.  And understanding.

Jack nodded though said nothing.  This time he was just at a loss for words.

Aneerin smiled.  “If you ever wish to talk about it, I will come.”  It was an oath.  Jack recognized that but had no idea why Aneerin would make it.

“Why?”

Aneerin shook his head very slowly.  “Because, Captain Jack Hart,” he said in a whisper.  “You could grow up to be as old as I.  And I will not see such promise lost because…” Aneerin trailed off and shrugged as he waved a hand towards the open hangar bay door facing Serenity.

“Because I can’t handle shooting a few Chinese bastards?” Jack asked with a bit more bite than he meant to.

Aneerin shook his head.  “No.  Because you killed people.  Because you enjoyed killing them.  Because you are happy you did it.  And because you are horrified that you did.”

Jack met his hard eyes and shivered.  Aneerin was laying down an ultimatum.

“I am sorry, Jack.”  Aneerin placed a hand on his shoulder and the grip was iron.  “But you must understand me.  They are every bit as human as you are.  They are not Chinese bastards.  They are someone's father, mother, sister, or brother.  You have to remember that.”

“It would be easier if I couldn’t,” Jack snapped back harsher than he planned.

Aneerin blinked and then nodded.  “You remember them in your dreams?”

Jack gritted his teeth and did not respond.  Which was all it took for Aneerin to read the novelized version.

“I am sorry,” Aneerin said and Jack saw the compassion still in his eyes.  “But that is good.”

“Why?” Jack bit out.

Aneerin studied him for a second before responding.  “Because the Shang are right to fear us.  And so are the Chinese.”

“What?” Jack snarled.

“They fear that we will see other people as less than us, as less deserving of living than us.  And if that should happen, we will become the monsters we fight and the monsters they fear.”  Aneerin’s eyes bored into Jack with an intensity Jack had never felt.  “And we dare not become those monsters.  The last time we were unleashed, we killed an entire race of humanity.  The entire Peloran race descended upon them and wiped them out without mercy.  Then we walked away.  It is very difficult to win a war, Jack.  And it is very easy to lose one.  Everyone lost that war and there was no one who could demand justice for those we slew.  I do not wish to see that happen ever again.  Do you?”

Jack licked very dry lips at the question and shook his head.

“Good.”  Then Aneerin broke the spell by turning as Charles stepped towards them.  “Thank you for doing your best.”

Charles shrugged.  “She will not accept it.”

“Her loyalty cannot be bought by pretty words,” Aneerin returned with a smile.  “It is adamant.”  Then he speared Jack with a look.  “It is your turn, now.  Stay with her.”

Jack shook his head.  “Why?  What is this really about?”

Aneerin aimed a long look towards where Wyatt still stood.  “That woman walked into the Fleet 2300 Project’s cruiser division and made it work.  She built this ship.”  Aneerin nodded at Charles.  “And if this little project is to have any chance of success it will need someone who can do that.”

Jack glanced towards Wyatt to see a thoughtful expression on her face.  “Then…you know…why not recruit someone else who can do this?”

Aneerin chuckled.  “There are options.  But she is my number one draft pick.”

Wyatt smiled and Jack swallowed.  “You know she can hear us, right?”

Aneerin echoed her smile.  “It is her ship.  I would expect nothing less.”

“You really like to play dangerous games, don’t you?” Jack said with a sigh.

Aneerin turned an iron gaze on Jack.  “This is no game, Jack.  You can lose a game and live.  The future of your race stands on the edge of a knife, and I do not intend to watch you lose it all.  And because of that, I must be elsewhere soon,” Aneerin said in a firm tone.  “You stay with her.  Guard her.  That is an order.  She will need you.”

Wyatt crossed her arms in obvious disagreement.

Jack cleared his throat.  “I’m not so certain she agrees with you.  She does have a warship, you know.”

Aneerin chuckled and looked around the hangar bay.  “Yes.  I am aware.”  Then he turned his gaze back to Jack.  “But a warship cannot fight on every battlefield.  And the Cowboys have earned a reputation.  That reputation can open doors no cyber can hack.  Hollywood will remember you well.  Now I must bid a good day to you.  Time is of the essence and battles that I can fight await.”

And then Aneerin walked away without another word.  On some that would have been rude.  With Aneerin it was merely…him.  Jack and Charles watched until the older man stepped inside his shuttle, the hatch closed, and it left the bay.

“You know, sometimes he weirds me out,” Jack whispered, still not certain Aneerin was entirely out of earshot.  If anyone could hear them speaking through the vacuum of space it would be that man.

“You are not alone in that,” Charles said with a shake of his head.

2307_angelstrike

2307_angelstrike_chapter7.txt · Last modified: 2018/01/16 05:49 by medron