I woke up, screaming and flailing, on a hospital bed on Earth. Amy was sitting on the chair, trying to calm me down. I swung, nearly missing her head and putting a dent in the wall next to her. I calmed down after she tried to quiet me several times, but I was still in pain and totally confused. I thought I was dead, a sort of limbo where my sins came back to haunt me. She was talking, but her voice was muffled by my own thoughts screaming in my ears, trying to sort out what happened and coming up empty.
“Ryan! RYAN!” She yelled, until a nurse came in to see what was happening. “Ryan, you need to calm down. You’re alive. I’m alive. Well, mostly. Just be quiet.”
I tried to control myself, and only succeeded with great difficulty. I listened to what she had to say, but I still didn’t believe it. Her father was dead after she had put a gun against his chin and threatened to kill him if he didn’t call off the soldiers. He did, but then put another bullet through my head. She lost it, shooting her father and all the soldiers in a fit of rage and grief. The doctors said that I was lucky, that the bullet had damaged mostly implants and more easily replaced brain tissue, but that I would likely need months of rehabilitation to get my memory back all the way. After she presented the evidence of his involvement to the Coalition Tribunal, her father was posthumously stripped of all power and title and given a criminal’s burial. Her fortune was also taken, though they let her keep enough to live on for a while. She was offered a position with the largest news organization in the galaxy, and was already working with people on book and multimedia deals, though she made them promise that the lion’s share of the cut would go toward my recovery.
We left the hospital together eight days later, me in an outdated wheelchair (at my request) and her with a limp. She had taken a bullet to the leg, and though they had healed it as best they could, it left her with muscular damage that could only be repaired with extensive nano-fiber muscular tissue replacement and years of therapy, so she chose instead to walk with just a limp until her body healed, however long it would take. We went to her apartment to pack up so she could sell it; a grim reminder of where her wealth came from was the last thing she wanted. We bought a little place together, on a world far in the outer sectors of the galaxy where we wouldn’t be bothered. She was supposed to start working again in a few months, but we both decided we needed some time off. I was officially retired and the Marshal service shut down completely. I was given a generous pension and more job offers than I knew what to do with. A large interplanetary private detective firm contacted me about a job, but I was too weak and too tired to even consider it at the time. I decided that I was done, that the universe could spin on without my skills making it more bloody. Amy talked about going back to work every few months, but after a year I knew she was just as tired as I was. We never married, or even really got serious. We shared a traumatic experience, and though we were the only ones that could understand the hell we’d been through, we also could barely look each other in the eye most days. We were our own triggers, bringing out the memories neither of us wanted to remember. Occasionally we would still wind up in the same bed, clutching to each other for dear life just to keep the nightmares at bay, and other times we would find places on the opposite sides of the planet from each other just to feel sane.
Amy moved out of the house a few years later, running across the galaxy as fast as she could hoping that she could outrun her demons. Me? I found my demons to be the only comfort besides a bottle of whiskey most days. We became old friends, reminiscing about old times and keeping each other alive. I eventually worked my way out of the bottle and the self-loathing, but it took a while. And when I reached the surface things seemed more bleak. I knew I couldn’t sit by any more. The galaxy was at the brink of a new war, the first one mankind had ever seen on such a scale. I wasn’t going to get involved, I told myself. I had nothing to lose and nothing to gain. Unfortunately the galaxy is a cold, uncaring place that didn’t bother with asking my permission. So once again I strapped a gun to my hip and headed out looking for trouble. It was what I was good at, wasn’t it?
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