Temporary Housing for Visiting Dignitaries
0714 Local Time
My head is killing me.
Getting out of my bed just makes it worse. The pounding is taking on a tormenting rhythm. My throat is dry, every time I swallow it feels like I’m being strangled by a small child. I run my fingers through my hair, but instantly regret it. Every strand feels like it’s being pulled out at the follicle.
Should have never gone shot for shot with Darden.
Something that sounds like my door chime rings out, stabbing me in the eardrum. I slowly begin to stumble toward the door when it rings again. Something that resembles the cry of a wounded animal instinctively escapes my body. I hope I look better than I feel.
I instantly sober up when I open the door. Commander Thomas Prendable stands with a closed grin. Instead of a uniform, he is donned in civilian clothes. A white silk shirt, tan slacks, dark brown boots. He looks much older out of uniform, the lines in his face sharply defined. His aged neck houses skin pulled too tightly around an exposed larynx. While usually covered by a collar, it’s a jarring indicator of his many years in service.
“Commander?” I hope my tone doesn’t portray my level of shock to see him. Or my hangover.
“Hello Lieutenant, may I come in?”
“Of course, sir.”
My room, as usual, is the absolute opposite of cleanliness, a conglomeration of dirty and newly washed clothes are draped over every piece of furniture. Prendable strolls in with his hands placed behind his back. I toss a few things off a chair and offer him a seat. He declines.
“Has Darden spoken with you yet?”
“Yes, sir. But I must say, I’m not interested.”
“We could use you.”
“I’m no politician.”
“I have plenty of politicians, what I need are good pilots.”
“I am not a good one of those, either.”
Prendable opens his mouth, but pauses before responding. My head begins to pound again.
“Klingseis, I would tell you that the deaths of your pilots are not your fault, but I assume that wouldn’t do anything to stop you from beating yourself up.”
“Whose fault is it then?” I say, trapped in Prendable’s gaze. I know that he is human, or at least mostly human, but there is a peculiarity in his hazel eyes that betrays that he is something different, something….more. If all the stories about him are true, that he was able to fight off an army of Ralgoths by himself, then he might be able to do other amazing things. It might be a mistake not to follow him.
He turns away from me, either annoyed by my defiance, or offended that I’m not jumping at his proposition. “Believe me, there is plenty of blame to go around.”
“Sorry, Commander. I’m honored by the offer, but…”
“Lieutenant, you are the most talented human pilot in this galaxy. You’re fearless, you’re loyal, you’re just the kind of officer I need. And honestly, if I recruited you I wouldn’t get just one good pilot. I would end up with fifty. I have spoken with the surviving members of Laramie, Vega, and Pride Squadrons, and each of them said they would only join if you were there to command their wing.”
My throat closes up a bit. I’m not sure if I’m getting emotional over the loyalty of my pilots or it’s just a harbinger of my inevitable death from dehydration.
I swallow hard to clear my throat before speaking. “So, what’s the plan? We all resign our commissions and fly around the sector promoting peace in a warship?” Prendable chuckles under his breath as I continue. “The Ironsides is one of the most heavily armed vessels in the armada. We’ll end up instigating more fire fights than if we stayed in the service.”
“Perhaps.” Prendable concedes. “Or it could be the first step to creating a dialogue between the races in this galaxy.”
“So now you’re selling me on being a part of history?”
A sense of urgency catches like fire in the Commander’s eyes. A rumbling fierceness that wasn’t present before flows out in his words. “Why you choose to join my crew isn’t important as long as you understand this, your people need you. Humanity needs you. Not as another warrior groomed for battle, but as a patriot serving as a protectorate of peace.” Prendable begins to close the distance between us, his gaze on me unwavering. “I need the best, and you are the best. You have a choice right now, either remain a pawn for Secretary Sarkozy and the rest of the Counsel, or come with me and become a beacon of hope that will ripple throughout this sector. But I can’t waste any more time trying to convince you. Is it a yes or no, Lieutenant? ”
Without any conscious thought, I hear myself say,
“It’s a yes, Commander.”
Prendable’s grin returns. Every degree of tension in me immediately dissipates.
“Good,” Prendable says exuberantly. “One more question, would you like to get a drink with the new crew tonight?”
Once again, without thinking, I find myself responding.
Only this time it was with vomit on his shoes.