“My dearest Love, I know they—”
The man hesitates and hits the stop button, rewinds and watches the brief clip. It would have to do. He can’t hide his anguish from the camera, from her. She’ll understand, he knows she will. But will she forgive him? He cannot dwell on that. This is the last opportunity he has to speak his mind, to tell the real truth, to explain it all… why he’s the last one, why he must save what he can. Of all the recorded messages he’s made over the past year he’s been away, this is the most important one.
Shaking the last vestige of doubt from his mind, he erases the clip and starts over.
“My dearest Love… I know they told you I was dead. I’m sorry for that. There’s so much to explain and so damn little time. Your technology works, my Love. Be proud of that…”
The view of Earth grows larger on his monitor as he completes his recording and programs its replay parameters. All these months of travel, to finally see his home, so small, so fragile. He soaks in the vision, knowing soon he’ll never be able to see it again, but maybe he’ll see Rachael. All the sacrifice will be worth it to see her, to know she will live. The pain in his heart is, in truth, harder than steel. It might be better if he could feel outrage at those who did this, but an iron anger radiates a red heat at those who were the true cause of this.
Zero G settles over him as he floats from his command couch. He pushes a little too strongly and knocks his head hard on the upper wall before grabbing a handhold and floats.
“Stop,” he mutters to himself. “Stop. Think. Observe. Plan.” He’d been alone for too long. That, and he wasn’t used to the Zero G with muscles acclimated to 2 G gravity.
Pulling himself toward the hatch and into the hallway, he mentally reaches for the computer and orders it to keep watch, to passive-scan for unwanted attention. He feels it respond.
So easy, now, to do that, he reflects. After all this time. The nanos have long ago interfaced with his entire nervous system.
He floats into another hallway, pulling himself from handhold to handhold along the wall.
Prepare fighters for mission deployment, he orders as he pushes the sorrow within deeper and deeper down. The computer acknowledges his command.
“Use the pain, push it into a corner so deep it comes out fighting,” he mutters to himself, jaw clenched. “You’re doing this for Rachael. Stick to the mission. You’ve had time to grieve all the way here. No more feeling sorry for yourself. Time to act, emotions have no place here.”
Only his faint echo returns from the silent hallways. He listens but no other response comes. The computer has learned when he wants its attention.
He finally reaches the fighter hatch and opens it as his thoughts reach to contact the fighter computer. The computer queries for authorization codes, and he responds. Access is granted for pilot Blackbird. His call sign is as old and familiar as his birth name, and he familiarizes himself with the fighter’s feel.
All this was unnecessary; he’s the only one here. But Earth’s military was ever paranoid. He’d tried to remove as much as he could but some things were hardwired into the computers. If the military had any idea of how much he’d done, they would have tried to destroy him before he passed Neptune.
He’d viewed the planets on his original trip out. He remembers how he’d felt gazing upon Jupiter, and then Saturn as he slingshotted around them to gain speed. ‘Beautiful’ was the word that came to mind, but then he’d been on a different kind of mission when he left for the Kuiper Belt. That was before he learned the truth. On the way back, he looked upon Saturn and it had felt like he was looking upon a gravestone. It stirred anger within him, heat transfiguring into cold, emotionless purpose. A need to stand tall before the injustice of the world and say, “This shall not be allowed to happen!”
He recalls the nights he was ripped from his sleep, his mind still echoing with the scream of pure rage. The computer tried to balance his system through the nanobots, but his mind had been overwhelmed. He’d been at the colony then, but the memories of the bodies still haunted him.
Children hugging dead mothers.
In the end, they’d died with dignity, knowing full well they were going to die. He didn’t blame them for what they had done; he couldn’t say he wouldn’t have done the same if he’d watched his family die. The evil of Earth’s military leaders had to be eradicated. In that, he felt like the colonists: those leaders had betrayed him as well. Rachael already thought he was dead because of their deception.
He pushes all of that away from him; his purpose was approaching quickly, the mission clock counting down. Pulling himself through the fighter’s access hatch, he looks around. Four acceleration couches, two on each side.
He passes them on his way to the center command chair at the front, his legs floating behind him as he grabs each chair’s console to pull himself along. He mentally activates the command consoles, and the fighter ship comes alive with readouts on the screens before him.
Seating himself, he activates the inertial dampers with a thought. A form of gravity from the magnetic fields settles over him, and he sighs. He requests a checklist rundown and the computer responds instantly, all is ready.
The time is now.
©2019 by RavenRock2112