“Come on, just a little bit closer!” Trave Macom clutched the trigger of the phase cannon as he watched the Drakon starfighter break from space and thunder into the planet’s atmosphere. The faulty navigation system had sent him deep into enemy territory. He had been hoping to escape without alerting the Drakons when two fighters had closed in on him. One he’d managed to out maneuver and bring into firing range, but the other ran hot and heavy on his tail. The Drakon ship banked right, desperate to shake him. “Just a little closer!”
Trave piloted the ship with an expert hand, weaving in and out, following the vapor trails left behind by the fleeing Drakon ship. The crosshairs of the canon narrowed on the ship ahead of him. He squeezed slowly on the trigger, enjoying each and every click as it eased back to fire with a heavy thud, thud, thud.
Four neon green streaks sprung forth from the side of his ship. They ripped through the sky, slipped up inside between the fuel cells and exploded from within. A second explosion thundered around him. His ship gave a violent shiver then jerked, slamming him back in his seat.
His gaze slipped over the warning lights on the flight panels out the casement to the skies beyond. Instead of a pink horizon choked with smoke, he saw the planet’s surface fill his view. “Kia-me,” he swore.
He took hold of the column and pulled back, fighting not only the downward descent of the ship, but the weight of his own body that wanted to tumble after it. Beyond the casement the ruddy ground approached, the roar of ripping winds beyond the haul drown out the alarms alerting him to the impending impact. The ship pummeled into the unforgiving rocky terrain, the underbelly skidding across the surface of the planet like a child’s plaything.
The ship collided with the tower of red stone. Trave was thrown forward against his restraints. His head smacked the cockpit hatch, the sickening thud that reverberated in his mind was drowned out by the cries of crushing metals.
Smoke billowed out from the ship’s panels. It gave one long, last shudder before losing all power and falling silent. The smoke rose up, clogging his nostrils, closing his throat, suffocating him with its hot, ashen breath.
He fumbled blindly for the release on his resistants. Smoke continued to gather in the small cockpit as the release finally gave and he struggled with the hatch. He drew in another smoke-filled breath, felt the darkness creeping in on him as he heard the sweet click of the hatch.
* * *
Low in the mountains the cool winds lapped at her face, stirring her midnight hair. The moonlight cast down upon her, highlighting the cobalt overtone that framed her face and making them shimmer like streaks of cerulean against a velvet canvas. Satal tucked the wayward tendrils behind her ear as she rested one boot-clad foot upon the rocky face of the ledge.
She cast her gaze skyward. The purplish hues of the late night sky were blackened with the funnels of billowing smoke that rose from the smoldering starcraft. Below she caught movement as a body emerged from the ship. Her heart lurched in her chest… a survivor. Her pulse quickened as the possibilities pricked in her mind. They were here, within her reach. One part of her, perhaps the smartest part of her, told her to turn about and forget what she’d seen. Yet another part of her, a familiar voice inside her, begging for help, refused to yield. This our chance, sister.
* * *
Trave drew in a sharp breath, fresh air filling his chest and making his lungs burn. His head lolled back as he slumped down the charred side of his broken ship.
Though his watery vision, she appeared as if from of a fog-crested dream. Her skin was pale, china-white a startling contrast to the multi-toned dark mass of curls that cascaded down her back. Shimmering blue locks of hair stirred about her face, framing it in a soft shadow.
Was he dead? Was this Heaven? Perhaps he hadn’t escaped after all. Perhaps his body was lying battered and broken in a pool of his own blood while his spirit and his mind travel Heavenward, leading him to eternal rest.
As she reached out to lay a soft, pale hand to his temple, his apparition became painfully real. Despite the warmth and tenderness of her touch, he was forced to shrink away from her hand as a raw ache exploded through his head. It flared behind his eyes making his vision darken and blurred.
She breathed out a heavy sigh before letting her hand slip away, “Kes de sha,” she whispered softly.
He closed his eyes, could hear a clattering in the distance. I must be dead, he thought before he finally succumbed to the darkness suffocating him.
* * *
The human lay like a broken thing on the cold metal floor. His chest rose and fell with each labored breath, but his eye remained closed. Satal counted the hours restlessly as they past. She had managed to drag his unconscious body to a nearby storage locker before a team of Drakon soldiers had arrived to inspect the wreckage.
Conflicting loyalties, those to her people and those to her family, whirled about inside her. What other choice had she? Her own people had denied her, refusing to help her. Family was all that she had left. He was her only option.
His dark hair fell across his eyes so that all she could see was the stubble across his cheek, fanning over his chin. His skin was soft, and warm, and very pink, like the flowers that bloomed in the summer valley. He wore a black uniform, a flying horse stitched in the upper corner of his chest. They told her the humans were savages, but this pretty, pink, flesh and blood man looked more like an angel than the devil she had been warned of. Perhaps he was her angel, sent here by the Goddess to protect those she loved.
If it had been fate that had sent him to her, then she knew what she had to do.
* * *
Trave opened his eyes, blinking against the fog penetrating his vision as he tried to focus on the high ceiling above him. Metal, a stunning triangulation of reflective and dull sheens rose like a temple before him. He blinked several times trying to clear his vision, the casement overhead coming slowly into focus.
Next to him, she was resting with her back up against a tower of cases. Her eyes were closed, her head tipped down so that her multi-colored hair covered most of her face. Her legs were crossed at the ankles, her arms folded over her chest as she dozed.
Trave shifted slightly, reaching for the Charger at his waist.
She held up his weapon. “Looking for this?”
Trave shifted uneasily as she turned the Charger on him.
“Such a clumsy weapon,” she mused as she turned it over in her hand. “So big and bulky.” From this distance he could see that the safety was still on, the tell-tale glow of the light casting a red hue across her thumb.
She smiled, and with a nudge of her finger switched it active. “And armed.”
Trave lifted his hands, his right arm groaning in protest. “Wait a minute…”
She clicked the safety back on and lowered the weapon. “Don’t worry, if I wanted you dead I would have left you for the soldiers to find.”
That was probably true enough, still it made him nervous to have his Charger in her hands. “What do you want?”
“What is your name?”
“Captain Trave Macom,” he said, his voice hoarse and scratchy. “Twenty-fifth Command, United Intergalactic Fleet, and you are?”
Satal, Imperium cargo pilot”
“Why did you bring me here?”
She looked away, toyed with the Charger in her hand as if it were a plaything. “You prefer I left you to the soldiers?”
“No, I… I just don’t understand.”
Satal shrugged her shoulders. “If I left you, they would kill you. So I brought you here.”
Trave blew out a heavy breath and leaned his head back against the metal wall. His head hurt and it made his thoughts cloudy. “What now?”
“We get you home.”
He cast a cautious glance at her. Could he trust her? What were the chances that a Drakon would actually help him when their people had spent the last five years killing each other? “Why?”
She drew in a shaky breath, “because sometimes the Fates have other plans.”
* * *
“This is never going to work.” Trave eyed the busy port from the shadows. More than a dozen Drakons wove in and out of a sea of grounded spacecrafts.
Satal smiled at him weakly from behind one of the large pillars. “You’re not claustrophobic, are you?”
She nodded to one of the large crates just a few feet in front of them.
Trave groaned. “You’ve got to be kidding me?”
Her brow furrowed, “what is ‘kidding’?”
“It means, you can’t be serious.”
“Oh yes,” she beamed. “I am serious.”
“This is never going to work,” he said again.
“Trust me,” she flashed him a dazzling smile “When I give you the signal, you climb into that crate right there, you see the one, marked with the Drakon seal?”
He started to protest, but Satal was already walking toward one of the fighters. He moved deeper into the shadows and considered the lunacy of what he was about to do. Hide in a crate and sneak onto a Drakon ship. It was insane, but it was also the only way off this godforsaken rock.
She moved with ease and confidence, casting sweet smiles at every Drakon she passed. They returned her smile but didn’t seem to give her sudden appearance in the hangar a second thought. She crossed to a tall, dark-skinned Drakon in uniform and greeted him with a kiss on the cheek. Trave’s stomach tightened as the uniformed Drakon put his hand over hers. She cast a glance over her shoulder and gave him a nod. Trave took that as the signal, drew in a deep breath and told himself it was now or never.
Quietly and quickly he made his way to the crate, lifted the lid and climbed inside. It was dark and cramped and didn’t appear to have any airholes. He prayed Satal would return and he wouldn’t suffocate in this dark and empty box.
* * *
Trave had no idea how long he had been in the crate before he finally heard voices. It could have been minutes or hours for time seemed to stand still in the darkness.
“Da kasta emplem ehana tu,” he heard Satal say.
“En tu,” came the reply.
The crate lifted and Trave shifted with it. He couldn’t descern which way he was moving, but moments later, he and the crate fell to the floor with a heavy thud.
“Anyana!” He heard Satal yell. He hoped that meant “careful.”
Moments later he heard the engines of a ship roar to life and he prayed to God that it was Satal at the helm. The ship shivered and shook, whirling and churning as it throttled forward and finally lifted into the air. Trave counted the moments, ticking by slowly for what seemed an eternity before the lid of the crate finally lifted. He blinked against the light, her face finally coming into focus as his eyes adjusted to the bright light of the Drakon cockpit.
“Apparently,” Trave replied as he dragged himself from the box. He crossed the small cockpit and dropped down into one of the two chairs before the casement. Outside, the vast emptiness of space stretch out before him. He shook his head, “I can’t believe that worked.”
Satal sat in the chair next to him, flipping switches and pushing buttons on the console. “I have my ways.”
“You are full of surprises.”
“Now, where are we going?”
“Milon sector, 24 mark 2.5.”
Her brow furrowed as her hand hovered over the controls. “That is the location of Eden Prime.”
Trave nodded. When they landed on the neutral planet, he could contact the UIF, relay the details of his failed mission and request transport back to the main station.
“I will take you to your station,” she insisted.
Trave shook his head. “I’m afraid we can’t do that.”
Her gaze narrowed on him. “Why not?”
He huffed out a laugh that sent the aching to flame to life once more in his head. “We can’t take a Drakon ship to the UIF, we’d be blown out of the black.”
“You have authorization commands, do you not?”
“Well, yes, but I doubt we’d get close enough for me to relay them.”
Satal withdrew his Charger from her hip and narrowed it expertly on his head. The little green light pulsed with the active charge.
He blinked, staring at the end of his own weapon. He shook his head, “should have known better than to trust a Drakon.”
“It’s not what you think.”
“Oh really?” He huffed out a breath and dragged his hand through his hair. “What do I think?”
“That I want the coordinates of the UIF station to relay to the Imperium.”
He nodded, that’s exactly what he thought.
“I could, but that’s not why we’re here.”
“Then what do you want?”
“My sister was working at the Trian research facility on Cartilian Five when the last raid hit. I have not heard from her since. I have made repeated appeals to my Council for assistance but they would not help me. They called her a ‘casualty of war’. I saved your life and in exchange you will help me find her.”
“Even if I knew where your sister was, I wouldn’t have the clearance to take you to her.”
She raised the Charger, her finger hovering over the trigger as a tear rolled down her cheek. “If you will not take me to her, then you are of no use to me.”
“Do it then,” he urged. “Pull the trigger, because even if I wanted to help you, I couldn’t.”
The Charger wavered in her hand, then she dropped it to her lap, bowed her head and sobbed quietly. He watched her for a moment, her shoulders shaking slightly, a small whimper slipping out from between her lips. He wanted to reach out for her, to rest his hand on her shoulder, even to draw her into his embrace to comfort her. “Maybe there is something I can do,” he said at last.
She lifted her head, her watery eyes searching his face. “You will help me?”
“There are some people I could contact, but not from here. We have to get to Eden Prime.”
She nodded and punched the coordinates into the console. She lowered the Charger and slipped it into the holster at her side.
* * *
Her Drakon authorization code granted them immediate docking clearance. She did not want to think about what would happen to her when she returned to Darkon and the Council discovered what she had done. Whatever the price, it would be worth finding her sister.
She released the hatch and climb from the ship, Trave falling in-step behind her. They headed from the adjacent hanger, wound their way through the port halls and stepped into the sun-lit city beneath the protective glass dome.
“I’ll have to go to the Federation embassy,” Trave said, nodding to the towering building off the main thoroughfare. She followed him, stopping short of the glass doors framing the embassy. “Wait here,” he instructed. She nodded and watched as he swept through the doors, flashing his badge at the desk attendant and then disappeared beyond a set of unmarked doors.
Satal watched the people of Eden Prime wander in and out of the shops and buildings that ringed the huge stone courtyard. They all seemed oblivious to the harsh realities in the black beyond their own world. A twinge of jealousy stabbed at her heart. How easy life here must be, no death, no destruction, no casualities of war.
“Satal?” She turned at the mention of her name to find a uniformed human crossing the distance to her. “If you’ll come with me, Captain Macon is waiting.”
She reached for the Charger at her hip, only to find the holster empty. It lay on the console of her ship following Eden Prime’s strict rules on weaponry. She nodded at last and stepped through the doors of the human embassy.
She followed her escort down a long and twisted hallway, unmarked doors flanking either side. Finally he paused, opened one of the doors and she followed him inside.
She cast a glance around the empty room. “Where is Trave?”
Her escort said nothing as he turned, stepped into the hallway and slammed the door shut behind him.
Satal jerked on the door handle and found it locked. She pulled and pulled, but still it would not budge. “En Yu Kian!” she swore as she beat on the door with her fists. Tears welled in her eyes. I trusted him, she thought as her throbbing fists gave way and she ran her hands helplessly down the cold metal door.
* * *
“You can’t do this!” Trave bellowed as he slammed his fist on the Admiral’s desk.
“We appreciate your assistance Captain Macom, the Federation will take it from here.” The Admiral’s voice was cool and distance, his gaze never lifting from the datapad in his hands.
“Eden Prime is neutral territory, you cannot hold her prisoner. She has done nothing wrong and you are violating the Eden Directive!”
“That will be all, Captain!”
At the Admiral’s harsh bark, Trave turned and stormed out of the office. That wouldn’t be all, not if he had anything to say about it.
* * *
Satal had no idea how long she had been locked inside the cold and sterile room. She guessed it had been hours, judging by the number of UIF personnel who had come and gone. They had interrogated her with question after question. She had remain rigid and silent, refusing to show them the slightest hint of weakness despite the tears that wanted to fall.
They had left her alone again, nothing but her and these four blank walls. She slumped down onto the floor, curled up and wrapped her arms about her knees, hugging them to her.
* * *
Trave watched the parade of UIF personnel come and go from the isolation cell. It had taken him nearly an hour to find her, even longer to work his sources to get the information she desired. He waited for the last round of officials to disappear down the hallways before he approached the door. He didn’t have clearance to access the control panel so he was going to have to do this the old fashioned way. If he got caught, it would mean the end of his career, possibly the end of his life as he served his remaining years behind bars. But he had to do it. He owed her that much. She had risked her life to save him and now it was his turn to return the favor.
He slipped the knife from his pocket and carefully unscrewed the door control panel. Finding the red wire, he slipped the knife underneath it and sent up a silent prayer before slicing it in half. With any luck, it would register as a malfunction on the system and they would have several minutes before anyone arrived to investigate it.
He pushed open the door and found Satal huddled in the corner. She didn’t bother to look at him, her head only slowly rising at the sound of his voice. “Satal.”
Her watery eyes narrowed on him and she huffed out a harsh whisper, “I trusted you.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know.” It was the only apology he could offer. “Please,” he said, holding out his hand for her. “We only have a few minutes before they get here.”
“I’m not going anywhere with you.”
“Satal, please,” he begged. “I have the information about your sister. If we can just get you out of here, you can go to her.”
“Why should I believe you?”
He slipped the bag he’d been carrying off his shoulder and tossed it across the room to her. “Put these on, we have to get you out of here.”
Reluctantly she reached for the bag, opened it and pulled out a UIF flightsuit.
“Hurry, we haven’t much time.”
“Tell me where my sister is.”
“She is in the Derium sector, on a small planet called Jadren. Hurry, please.” She seemed to consider this, taking longer than was safe. He knew they would be coming for them any minute. Finally, she rose and slipped into the flightsuit, zipping it up over her clothes.
“Come on,” he urged, taking her by the hand and drawing her out the door. They rushed down the hallways, she ducking her head and avoiding the gaze of every UIF personnel they past. As they broke free from the building, the whine of the alarms ringing out through the courtyard sent every head turning in their direction.
“Run!” he yelled, as they thundered through the crowd.
He could hear the shouts of the UIF guards echoing down the hallway behind them as they fled across the hanger to the waiting Drakon ship. Satal scrambled up into the cockpit, Trave hesitated on the ground behind her. She turned, offering him her hand.
He slipped a piece of paper into her awaiting palm. “Those are the coordinates. Your sister is well, in fact she is working for a private sector organization.”
Satal glanced down at the coordinates on the paper. “Come with me,” she whispered.
Trave shook his head. “You know I can’t.” The UIF stormed into the hanger, a dozen Chargers drew on him in unison. “Go, now!”
“I can’t leave you to them,” she cried.
“I’ll be fine, now go, before it’s too late.”
Satal cast a glance at the Chargers narrowed on them. “Thank you,” she whispered as she slipped into the cockpit and lowered the hatch.
A barrage of Charger fire exploded in the air around them. Trave dropped to the ground and watched the Drakon ship whirl to life and explode from the hanger.
As the Charger fire ceased, helpless against the well armored ship, a UIF guard dragged him to his feet. “Captain Macon, you are under arrest.”
Trave drew his hands behind his back, the heavy restraints locking around his wrist.
“Why did you help her?”
“Because,” he smiled. “Sometimes the Fates have other plans.”
Copyright © Danielle Devon. All rights reserved. These are works of fiction. These stories, in whole or in part, may NOT be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.