Annie’s mouth went dry as she pushed through a pair of dark wooden doors. She shuddered involuntarily at the sight of the man, who was once her lover in front of her, “My God Peter, what has happened to you?”
Dozens of purple and green bruises mottled his face and bare arms, the top half of his leather flight suit was torn, and burnt in several places. The left eye was almost swollen shut and his blonde hair was flecked with black soot, and dark dried blood. The patch on his arm that marked him as an Air Ranger was still visible and she could make out the scarlet flairs that ranked him as a Commando across his breast. Slowly Annie stepped through the door and it glided shut behind her. Peter looked up from the wooden bench he sat on and then stood unsteadily on his feet.
She reached out then hesitated, “I want to hold you, but I am afraid I will hurt you.”
Peter smiled, but his eyes were unable to match his expression of joy, “You can’t hurt me Ann, and a hug would be good right now.”
Annie held him as tightly as she felt it was safe, stroking the soot and blood out of his hair with her free hand. After several minutes she leaned back, tipping his face up so she could look in his unswollen eye, “How did this happen? I mean… Where am I?”
Peter smiled, “It isn’t your time yet, you’ve as always have arrived too early and you still have your duty to attend too.”
She looked at him puzzled and then nodded as realization hit her, “I know.”
Then her mouth soured as she recalled her thoughts before the battle, “Act now…”
Slowly Annie traced Peter’s face, then stopped as the bruises and swelling disappeared at her touch, “Oh my God… This place it’s…”
Peter placed his finger in her lips to silence her, and smiled once more, “Go… Do your duty I’ll be here waiting for you, but don’t be in to much of a hurry to come back, okay?”
The doors behind Annie creaked open again and she felt herself being pulled toward them. She grabbed at Peter and before they were pulled apart their lips locked, the warmth spread through her cold body. Just before the door swallowed her and closed she saw Peter hold up his right hand as a farewell.
The urgency of Carol shouting through her tin speaker shocked Annie out of her fog, she focused on her surroundings. The air wing should have been a smoldering wreck on the ground or should have been blown apart, with her quite dead inside it. Instead the Victoria was in one piece, albeit tipped forward onto its nose, from what appeared to be a fairly gentle crash landing.
“Annie, talk to me!” shouted Carol again.
“I’m here C… How are you?” said Annie groaning.
“Took damage on my left-wing, and the charger sheared off, I had to take myself out of the battle to get her to cool down… The Arc has sounded a full recall. They are withdrawing and ordering a combat landing on the flat top… Can you make it?”
Annie touched her shoulder and something wet and heavy came away in her grip, her vision swarm and she fought to focus on the instruments on front of her. She leaned her head against the Victoria’s canopy looking out on a flat studded metal riveted landscape, slowly the realization hit her, she had crashed on the back of the Leviathan.
“My god Annie how hard have you been hit?” said Carol, her voice now sounding far off.
“I’m sorry C, it’s pretty bad,” Annie said choked down a lump in her throat. “I don’t know where I am, but I am glad you can’t follow me… I love you… Be safe…”
“Annie? An fizz crackle… repe… frazz.,”
Annie reached out and pulled at the speaker, until it came free from her console and sparked as the wires disconnected. She laughed aloud and liked that sound, realizing she hadn’t been this carefree since she last saw Peter. Just in front of the broken air wing a hatch opened and she saw the outline of Dominion Marines in altitude suits climbing out. She held up her good arm, making the shape of the pistol with her hand and pointed it at the startled soldiers who brought their rifles up. She looked at them grinning crookedly, “Bang your dead!”