23 October 2326
Sejora and Neeshu had just finished their videoconference with Viceman Mohtop, the commanding officer of Strike Force Alpha.
Mohtop had given them more information about the upcoming mission, and also informed them that their station would be taken in tow by TSNS Hunter. The strike force’s flagship would then drop the remote observatory within direct comm-range of the target to act as emergency relay for the attacking flotilla.
Most of the information dump had been dedicated to the timing of the various phases of the operation. Among other things, the couple had also learnt of the enemy asset that was being targeted, the ISDF’s Remote Officer Training Academy.
“You can’t seriously be okay with that?” Bannerman Sejora all but shouted at his wife.
“What’s not to be okay with? Neeshu asked in return, before adding, “we’re striking an important military asset.”
“But...” his eyes were wide open while he struggled for air, trying to find the right words, “... they’re children!”
“They’re legally adults,” she said quietly, “besides, they’re enemy combatants, not civilians.”
“Do you really think that should matter in this case? They’re unarmed. They’re not expecting anything bad to happen to them. Not yet anyway!”
“They chose to wear that uniform, so they know what they signed up for!” Bannerwoman Neeshu replied, beginning to raise her voice somewhat.
Sejora had to fight the urge to ‘stand up’ which could have resulted in bodily harm for himself, due to the absence of gravity. Instead, he raised his arms above his head.
“How can you say something like that?” he exclaimed, “I know they’re the enemy, but I didn’t think you could be this cold-hearted!”
“Cold-hearted? Me? After all this time together, you should know me better than that! Wasn’t it you who referred to me as the ‘most caring person ever’ just the other day?”
“I thought I knew you, but right now it seems like I was wrong.”
Neeshu shook her head slowly, “That is just sad, that you would say something like that. You know me, Sejora. Why would you doubt me over something like this?”
“I am the one who’s sad, Neeshu. I thought our ideals were aligned in most regards.”
“And they are! Are they not? Are we not both fighting for the same cause? Besides, would the Terrans,” she spat the word, “have mixed feelings about bombing our young people?”
“That doesn’t mean that we have to stoop down to their level. As for the cause... Yes, I believe in ours, and I’m fighting for it! You know I do. But I value young lives more than anything! Is whatever advantage we would gain from this really worth the price?”
Bannerwoman Neeshu paused for a moment and looked down at her hands. She then searched for Sejora’s gaze with her own and said, “I believe it is. We are barely holding our ground, and desperate measures are definitely justified.”
“Well, I disagree. How can we look in the mirror and not feel ashamed ifour victory is be built on such acts? What do our ideals even mean if we can’t uphold them without resorting to murdering children?”
“They’re not children, Sej! They’re enemy combatants!”
“In training! In their teens! Unarmed!” Sejora shouted, “Is that how you want to define ‘enemy combatants’ really?”
“Give them a few years and they will be armed and coming at us!” Neeshu shouted back.
“Oh if that’s the case, why don’t we raid high-schools? Elementary schools? Nurseries? Get them while they’re young and can’t defend themselves!”
Sejora had to catch his breath. He had not intended to get that worked up, but his passion overtook him. Neeshu did not say anything. She just looked at her husband with her mouth halfway open, still trying to grasp how he could think that lowly of her.
After a while, she quietly said, “Do you honestly believe that I would support something like that?”
Sejora was about to reply when he forced himself to pause and think, “No. I really don’t. But isn’t it a fine line that you’re trying not to cross?”
“I don’t see how it’s a fine line. They are in uniform. Officers in training. Yes, they’re young people. But young people die in battle all the time.”
“In battle, sure. But that’s where they have to expect to die. Not while attending some lecture or chatting with their classmates.”
“Even then... They’re not children anymore, Sej,” Neeshu said with a warm voice while leaning over to her husband.
Sejora withdrew from her, not feeling like physical contact. Instead, he said, “What if they were our children, Neeshu?”
She gasped for air a few times before saying, sounding out of breath, “Now that’s not fair! We would never bring children into this universe unless this conflict was resolved.”
“And what if it is never resolved?” What if this is what our lives will be like for the next couple of generations? You do want children with me, don’t you?”
“Of... of course I do! You know that! Is that what this is about? You don’t want to wait any more?”
Sejora pushed away from the comm-pod’s hatch.
“Where are you going?” Neeshu asked.
“Don’t worry, I’m not going far. And no, that’s not what this is about. It’s about valuing human life.”
He retreated to the far end of the tiny station’s main compartment to put some distance between himself and his wife. He felt like their argument was going in circles, and that it was not productive for them to go on with it at this time. Sejora sought some time and space to think.
Meanwhile, Neeshu had turned to face the comm-pod’s main console once again, not wanting her husband to be aware of her emotions. As a tear rolled down her cheek from the corner of her eye, she wondered what exactly had caused Sejora to get so worked up about this.
She knew, of course, how much he cared about children on a whole. That was one of the reasons she loved him, and why she thought he would make an excellent father. On the other hand, she had not expected him to react so passionately to their mission’s objective.
Granted, hearing about the target had left a sour taste in her mouth as well, but they were at war after all, and young people died all the time, as bad as that sounded.
“Maybe I am trying to rationalise something that shouldn’t be?” she asked herself aloud, speaking softly enough so that Sejora would not hear it.
A few hours had passed since their argument.
Sejora had gone to sleep without saying another word, and Neeshu had remained on standby in the comm-pod, waiting for an incoming call from the assembled strike force.
No call had come, and Bannerwoman Neeshu had been left alone with her own thoughts. She had replayed the argument with her husband in her head multiple times, trying to figure out where she had gone wrong, but she could not figure it out. This caused her thoughts to run in circles.
Even though she was strapped down in front of her console, she was unable to sit still and kept fidgeting about in the confined space. Neeshu had always been a fierce supporter of the Tarhinan uprising, and was not about to compromise in that regard, but she would never want to loose her husband over it either.
Neeshu shook her head quickly in order to try and clear her mind. She tried to convince herself that this was purely her head coming up with insane scenarios free from any foundation in reality.
Just as she thought how Sejora would never make her choose between him and their cause, she felt a hand on her shoulder.
Neeshu wanted to jump, but the safety harness held her in place, causing what appeared to be a full-body spasm.
She turned around to see Sejora behind her, one hand on her shoulder, the other on the handrail above his head.
“You’re back early,” she said.
“I couldn’t sleep. Had a lot to think about.”
“Me too. Not that I would’ve had the chance to sleep though.”
He snorted briefly, which in turn caused her to smile. She felt reassured that she was still able to make him laugh.
His face became serious again soon, however, and he calmly asked, “Are you busy? I’ve got to talk to you.”
“It’s been dead quiet, go ahead.”
Bannerman Sejora settled down halfway through the hatch. He leaned over his wife, gently brushing against her, until his hand reached the console. With a few precise movements, he muted the remote observatory’s onboard recording systems.
Neeshu raised an eyebrow, “That serious?”
Her husband ignored the question, which had been rhetorical anyway, and said, “I can’t go on with this mission.”
“I spent the last couple of hours thinking about it. I can’t come to terms with our objective, it goes against some of my most fundamental beliefs. I wouldn’t be me any longer if I went ahead and supported this strike.”
“Some days I hate how in sync we are,” Neeshu said, with a forced smile.
“What do you mean?”
“I was just thinking how I wouldn’t want to have to choose between you and the cause, and now you hit me with this bomb of a statement.”
Sejora smiled forcibly as well and ran a hand across his face.
“You have always been able to read my mind;” he paused briefly, before continuing, “I am sorry for raising my voice against you earlier. I was out of place.”
“It’s alright. We both were, I believe.”
“And I’m also sorry about leaving you with this dilemma.”
“That’s alright too,” she smiled, genuinely this time, “your idealism is part of what attracted me.”
They both stared at each other for a few moments.
Neeshu silently wondered how she could feel so calm inside all of a sudden. She had expected her subconscious to put up more of a fight. She would not have been surprised if she had had to struggle internally to come to terms with her husband’s statement.
Without having heard what his intentions were, she said, “You know that this is treason, right?”
“Technically it isn’t. I’m pretty sure it falls under valid moral doubts.”
“You’ll have to argue that in court martial, which probably won’t happen before the war is over. In the meantime, you’ll be locked up.”
“I’ll just have to avoid getting caught then,” he grinned.
“What do you have in mind?”
“So you’re saying that you’re on board with this?” Sejora raised both eyebrows.
“I don’t even know what this is yet, but sure. You’re my husband, so I’m sticking with you.”
They gazed into each other’s eyes once more, but this time, warm smiles adorned both their faces.
“Well, I don’t plan on sabotaging the mission, if that’s what you’re worried about. But I don’t want to assist or be involved in any way either,” he explained, “That means we will have to find a way to separate ourselves from the strike force somehow.”
“We’ll have to ditch good old three-two-five-six then.”
“Definitely. Something with engines would be better. Ideally something FTL-capable.”
“Now you’re being ambitious, husband of mine.”
“I hope that’s also something you like about me,” Sejora laughed.
“Oh, definitely. But we should talk about this more in a while. Don’t want to have too much of a time gap in the recording.”
“Good thinking, woman. Look at us, co-conspirators. Who would’ve thought?”
They both laughed in unison as Sejora hugged Neeshu from behind.