For You – A Peacekeeper Short Story

34 minutes, 12 seconds
Writers Note: This is the original short story I wrote in 2014, but you may see the full novel eventually. Let me know what you think!

January 20, 2025 – 0900

Sometimes when driving over the Springstand Dam, Megan imagined jerking the wheel to the right and plunging over the side of the bridge into the turbulent water. She just imagined. Would the impact of the guard rail be hard or would she go right through? How long would she have before she hit the water? Would it feel like flying? Would the car sink right away or bob for a while? Her car was electric, so would she be electrocuted? She drove on until she was past the dam and the landscape dried up into the same farmland that would stretch all the way to Springstand.

It wasn’t really that she wanted to die. That’s why she always kept driving. Because she didn’t really want to die, nor did she want to put anyone through the trouble of fishing a car out of a lake or grieving for her if that were the case. She just wondered what it felt like the seconds before her car hit the water. She could go skydiving and feel the plunge, but it wouldn’t be the same. All the cars came with automatic collision avoidance now so she probably couldn’t do it even if she tried anyway.

Later she pulled into her parking space and followed the signs to the enclosed sports center. It was welcome week and the tents were clubs and organizations trying to lure new members. It was such a beautiful day outside, but it was a twisted beauty. The air outside was barely breathable.

 As she walked through, she noticed that many of the representatives like the Penny Chartier Women’s Club avoided eye contact as she walked by. Megan avoided it as well, choosing to look across the sidewalk instead. Money knew money and to acknowledge it was a kind of social death.

Megan caught herself and rolled her shoulders, preferring to pretend that her neck hurt than admit she lowered her head to anyone. She followed the roll with a smile that said, I am approachable.  She’d gone out of her way to wear yellow today, a universally cheery color. Blue jeans, a bright yellow T-shirt with a simple smiley face on the front and she’d let her hair down even though it made sweat cling to the back of her neck. She would make friends if it killed her.

So it went that she was nearing the end of the club fair and hadn’t been stopped or even smiled at but once. The rowing club had greeted her, but damn if she was not in shape for something like that. That’s when she noticed two contrasting things that made her pause and marvel. The first thing was a black tent. Every tent so far had been a deep burgundy to match the school’s color. Not only was it black, but it had miniature monitors set up on one side with a slightly chubby outline wobbling on the screen. Sitting next to the monitors was a monstrosity. Someone had rigged a Chucky doll with sensors and a sailor moon wig.

The second thing she noticed was a cute guy standing there talking to someone inside the tent. He was wearing a burgundy school t-shirt and had wavy blonde hair. When he saw her standing there, he waved her over. “Hey! This club looks pretty cool, right? I bet they have a lot of fun.”

So, she joined. That day there were seven of them, all trying to talk at once while she sat and smiled. The best thing was that it was a real smile. This year would be great. She didn’t speak up until they started arguing about the website and which project would get the most front-page coverage. When she spoke, the Chucky doll fanatics were outnumbering the hot wheel duo.

And that’s how she was put in charge of the website. Sitting at her dorm room desk to work on the design, she reached over to the stack of suggestions on her right and pulled out a leaked photo of a docked airship and she felt a tugging in her chest. The same questionable feeling she got each time she drove over the Springstand Dam.

 The internet had been infused lately with highlights on the technology that would be on board the Peacekeeper. A ship so large that it was every bit the size of an aircraft carrier, but it flew! So it was an aircraft carrier in the sky! For months during its construction, images were leaked that made the hearts of sci-fi fans everywhere glow because it looked unlike anything they’d seen before.  A collaborative effort of every United Nation supported country with enough technology to contribute and those that could not, sent workers to help construct it. They participated for the good of the world because this ship was going to belong to the UN and host a mixed crew made up of six crewmen of each nationality.

Aside from her personal enthusiasm, it just made sense after she was given two folders full of Chucky doll pictures of which some were questionable in content. Absolutely not. Although the dolls were not anatomically correct, it had to be illegal even to insinuate poses like that on a school-related website.

Megan started the website with the club’s name which was “HBN” short for Hots, Bots, and Nots. Hots actually stand for the two token Hot Wheels fanatics that never grew out of it from preschool, Bots for the guys that are sure they can make their own vocaloid but so far she just looks like a Chucky doll with a sex change and Nots because pretty much anyone that doesn’t fit in the first two is welcome to join…which is mostly everyone that thought Hots was for hot chicks. Cute guy Chad was a Not and hadn’t even made it to the second club meeting. By then it was too late. By then she’d already been roped into the website. Others knew how to do it, but having a club site with Hot Wheels or a badly dressed Chuckette was inconceivable. She pushed all the Chucky photos into a drawer on her left.  “This is bullshit.” She muttered to herself.

July 9th, 2025 – 0600 Peacekeeper

 “C’est des conneries!” Lucas muttered to himself. He was pretending not to hear or understand the various drivel around him, but it was no small task.

The crew quarters were tight like someone made the ship model out of a sardine can and liked the idea so much that they neglected to consider that more than one person might come and go at the same time. He supposed they wanted to save all the space they could so the visiting dignitaries could have a whirlpool bath instead of sharing a shower with the rest of them and God forbid they not have a kitchenette complete with a personal fucking coffeemaker for those stressful mornings when a full night’s sleep was just not enough.

He was interrupted by his buddy Renee who elbowed him roughly and whispered to him in their native French language, “What are they saying?”

Not this again. This was exactly what he was trying to avoid. “Same thing we are. This is bullshit. We didn’t sign up to babysit.”

“What? All of them?”

“What do you want, a play-by-play?”

“Relax, Jesus. I just feel strange not knowing what they are saying. Sups were fucking crazy to put us all together in this flying clown car. Where are the fucking translators?”

“Just shut the hell up, okay? Last thing I need is for everyone to know I can speak their language. Next thing you know I’ll be the ship bitch; requesting authentic Japanese toiletries or German pornography.”

“I only asked for that once and it’s like you’ll never let it go.” Renee kid and shoved the last of his stuff into the approximately eight-inch deep bin built into his bunk.

They were both shoved forward as someone forced their way through behind them. “Out of the way, Shithead.” A curt German voice growled on his way by. Renee glared in his direction and leaned towards Lucas to whisper, “Please tell me that was German for excuse me.”

Lucas watched the man who shoved a few more people out of his way until he reached his bunk, which was about two beds down. His shoulders were so wide; they almost filled the space between bunks. He was at least two inches above Lucas’s even six-foot height. Formidable and an asshole; which could be a dangerous combination to cross with Renee.

Renee himself was approximately 5’7 and stocky. Not fat, they had no time or luxury to be fat but a short wall of thick muscle; thick enough that he also didn’t have the luxury to be very quick. Renee thought he was a modern-day hulk and therefore popular with the ladies. Lucas never bothered to tell him that he looked closer to an armed teddy bear than the incredible hulk. He knew better than to tease a man about his size.  Either way, a confrontation wouldn’t go well in this tight space for anyone.

“Nah. He’s good. He’s like you, he just looks scary but he’s a pretty princess inside.”

“Fuck you, Sir. Fuck you. If you’re not careful, I’ll pull out my tutu and beat your ass.” The words were serious but he was laughing when he said it. It was then that they heard the call to attention that led to exactly what Lucas had been dreading.

The briefing was tense to say the least. There were about five other units brought in to the main cargo bay with Lucas’s French unit. This was by no means a majority of the crew. In total there were approximately five hundred soldiers on board but only forty-eight in their debriefing. Only a small percentage of what the ship was meant to hold, but as they were informed, the Peacekeeper would not be fully staffed for its maiden voyage.

The orders given were simple but a slap in the face. Most units on board were mechanics, pilots, engineers, cooks, anything useful and required to run the Peacekeeper. All the units in that briefing were exceptions, generally found in battle and jumping from hot spot to hot spot they were suited to getting shit done. Yet they were just asked to serve as security on a political showboat. Not a word was said, but the temperature in the room seemed to warm up by at least ten degrees.

Looking from face to face, Lucas could see a mixture of stony resistance to about-to-burst red. Lucas himself felt the cut. Mainly because the message was delivered by an American Colonel who after laying out the initial blow, had turned to Lucas and said, “Sergeant Roux, could you translate for me?”

That was also how he was volunteered to play tour guide during the publicity tour. They asked for volunteers first, which he tried to avoid. But when every eye in the room turned towards Lucas, he found himself raising his hand wearily. Better to volunteer than catch the hell from the crew later. Somehow when he translated their orders, it was like he absorbed some of the responsibility. Guilty by association, even though none of it had anything to do with him at all.

After they were all dismissed, Lucas met Renee on the way out of the cargo bay. “Ready to suit up?”

“Are you kidding? I knew they had some weird shit planned when we were told to bring our full dress uniforms.” Renee rubbed his face to check the stubble as they walked. “Looks like I’ll have to shave again too. How did I get to be such a hairy fucker? My dad’s bald and couldn’t grow a beard if he tried.”

“Yeah, but have you seen your momma? She’s got enough hair for the two of them.” Lucas was prepared for the cuff on the shoulder. “Just teasing, man. You know that. Your mom is a gem.”

“A hairy gem,” Renee admits. “What do you think of running this baby on such a limited crew? Can it be done?”

“Probably. Technology has come a long way over the last few years. The problem is how long they plan on running it so low.” They had arrived back at their bunks and it was chaos. Everyone was busy trying to get their dress uniforms on in such a cramped space.

“Look at it this way; it can’t get any worse, right?”

“Bullshit. I bet Novum said that to their employees when the first round of them died. It can always… get worse.”

They both sobered up at that. One of their unit mates in the bunk across from them turned and said, “I wonder what air filtration system they’re using in here.”

“Don’t worry,” Lucas answered. “Novum pulled all their units after the second round died. The sups might not care if we die, but they wouldn’t put something that dangerous in a vessel they might end up vacationing on.”

Novum was one of the leaders in technology for the last ten years. They dabbled in just about everything from toilet paper, cereals to armed security systems. They had become such a household name that no one questioned the air filtration system they released five years before. It was brand new technology dealing with the chemical purification of air filtered through a box that was approximately four by four inches. It was resilient, cheap to make and most of all effective during a time when the air outside was barely breathable.

No one was reduced to wearing masks to walk around, but it was proven that the long-term exposure to outside air corroded the lungs. So living facilities and places of employment were required to provide sterile, air purified environments to limit exposure. Novum’s product allowed these companies to purify the air for less and with less. They were so confident in their product that they equipped it in every new building as their business grew.

It wasn’t until two years after their product was released that the deaths started. During a period of five years, twenty thousand people died, mostly Novum employees. At first, Novum stood by their product. They maintained that the deaths were natural although coincidental in number. They even continued selling their units; insisting that the air outside was growing more toxic. However, it was eventually proven that Novum air filtration systems were using chemicals that did indeed purify the air, but also released a new chemical called Sephamine. Sephamine was harmless in an open atmosphere, but toxic when collected in small spaces. It had no odor or color and could eat through your organs with a year of continuous inhalation.

July 9th, 2025 0600 – Blue Ridge Mountains

Nina sucked in a deep breath from her inhaler and leaned her head back against the tree behind her. The ache in her chest eased ever so slowly. She looked down at her inhaler and wanted to puke. The red letters on the side screamed Novum and although Jake suggested that she should get a marker and black it out, she left it visible. Every time her lungs started to hurt and she couldn’t breathe, she wanted to see it and remember.

Her mother had been an angel, a really smart angel. She worked in the lab at Novum and helped develop small things that made everyone’s life better. Like her inhaler. Her mother had been in charge of it. It numbed the lungs and chest area and worked as an anti-inflammatory and antibiotic all at the same time. So it could be used for multiple things. Nina used it to try to keep her lungs working after the damage Novum had done. She was lucky because her mom was so smart. Although she’d had no proof to back it up, her Mom had moved her from their Novum provided apartment to a small rental outside of town. It was so far that her Mom had to drive two hours to work every day, but she’d been adamant about it.

Now Nina knew why. Her mother was one of the first batch of employees to die. Nina managed to get away with only half of one lung dysfunctional. Her mother’s death hit her hard and her father too. He’d come back from his post overseas livid. Absolutely crazed.  If Nina hadn’t been so sick during the first and then the second wave of deaths, he probably would have done something stupid.

Instead, when she was released, he packed up only essentials and moved them about ten miles into the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

Nina heard footsteps but couldn’t bring herself to care. There were enough military men around their camp that she knew she was well guarded. He came to a stop beside her and stood quietly for a while.

“Nice view.” It was Jake’s voice and it was enough to make her look up from the red filth and out at the view in front of her. She’d come here often to appreciate the view and never did. The mountains were like blue waves. Any moment you could expect to see a whale crest out of the forest below and blast water into the air.

“Whales have to breathe too.” She replied and she knew he looked at her strangely.

“Your mind is going to rot if you keep this up.” He was referring to her obsession with the evil inscribed on her inhaler.

“Maybe it already is.”

“You’ve got to hold it together or this will never work. We’re all angry.” He was so quiet that Nina looked up at him. He wasn’t wearing his normal dark green camouflage. Instead, he was wearing a ridiculous Hawaiian floral t-shirt left un-tucked and a hair of kaki-colored shorts. He held out his hand as an offer to help her up. “It’s time to go.”

“You look ridiculous.” She smirked and accepted his hand.

“Commander said we needed to blend in. We’re going on a tour. So this is my impression of an ignorant tourist.”

“Well done.” She couldn’t help but laugh when her comment made him snort. It was only after they’d both stopped laughing that they headed down the mountain. On the way down, Nina gripped her inhaler tightly.

September 3rd, 2025 – 1800

Megan gripped the rail in front of her tightly and remembered once how badly she’d once wanted to fall. Just to feel the freedom. Had it all been worth it? The ship was about to dock for the first time since it had been hijacked months before. The commander’s voice rang in her head when he asked a similar question.

September 3rd, 2025 – 1300

 “Miss Ryland, are you happy to be going home?” Commander Taig had asked her that morning. They’d met on the observation deck where Megan had been staring down at the soft cotton clouds.  This was the first day that the sun was so crisp and the clouds were an innocent blanket to hide the chaos below. As if the sky hadn’t been so black and stained the days before. So many had died, but she held the ones left on this ship close to her heart. There was nothing she could do for the war below, but as long as Lucas and the others were alive, she had done enough.

“Are you really letting us go?” Megan asked. The commander had been strict, but not unyielding so far… but after the devastation he’d unleashed on the cities, simply letting them go now didn’t seem real.

“Yes.” He stared out with her for a moment, seeming to take in the serenity in a way that, once, only a man of his advanced years could understand. Now she could and she did. “There are great men who have died for their country; I expect that someday I will do the same, but not at the expense of my family. I brought Nina with me because this ship was the safest place on earth.  That is no longer the case.”

“What about the prisoners, I thought they were coming with us.”

He looked down at her and smiled, reaching out to simply put his hand on her head.  “Not at the expense of my family. Not at the expense of yours. You are special Megan, to have so much love and acceptance inside you. You know how it feels to be left behind and you don’t want anyone else to feel the same.  I hope Nina can acknowledge and learn to forgive like you have.” 

She stood still, her head warm under his hand and felt…sadness. This man was family too… one that she could not save.

“Go on and get ready to leave.” He motioned with his head for her to leave, his hand falling back his side. “I want to look at the view a little longer before we land.”

September 3rd, 2025 – 1500

When the observation deck doors opened, Nina was staring at blood-splattered LCDs of the same perfect sky.

 “Nina, what have you done?!” There was so much blood. Sprayed out from the same warm spot that she had left him, pooled on the ground, and leaving a trail where it traveled with the occasional sway of the ship until it had coagulated a few foot away from where he lay.  In the middle of it all, in her once crisp white shirt but now sprinkled with death, was Nina. There was no mistaking what happened, even though the idea was enough to make her stomach lurch.

“He was going to ruin everything,” Nina replied slowly.

“He said he would let us go. He was going to land the ship and let us go. I don’t understand, why would you…” Megan brought her hand up to her mouth and held back a wave of sickness.  Was he really dead? She wanted to go check, but the knife… he must be. The blood…the wounds. Megan could see stab wounds in his back, there were probably more in the front.  He had to be facing the door when he fell. He hadn’t removed his gun, so he knew… Megan couldn’t hold the next wave and could only lean over and empty her stomach onto the floor next to her. The force of the act and the fact that tears were starting to mix brought her to her knees.

“I can’t let you go.” Nina’s hands were shaking as she put down her knife and leaned down to remove her father’s revolver from his holster and open the chamber to check the bullets inside. By the time she turned around to face Megan, her face was stained like she’d been crying, but her face was calm. Unnaturally calm in a way that scared Megan more than when the ship had first been taken.

Megan noticed, but couldn’t move.  The Nina she was seeing right now, was not the same Nina from before.

“Commander!” Megan heard a shout from her side before she was knocked over with a well-polished boot and a gun was aimed at her face. A gun that thankfully hadn’t been used since their first meeting, two months ago.

July 9th, 2025 – 1800

Megan had been hiding where she didn’t belong. While her interest didn’t run towards Hotwheels or Vocaloids, everyone in the club shared in fascination of the Peacekeeper.  So when a contest was held to include fans in a special publicity tour, her name was entered…as well as the rest of the club’s six members. Out of six, none of them expected to actually win but she did.  She had been absolutely psyched.  She would be there right next to the major media carriers. When the day came and they were allowed on board, she stood in absolute ecstasy, clutching her laptop bag and the best camera she could buy for $200. The club had all pitched in for that.

The initial tour of the ship had gone great, but Megan’s favorite was the mirrored LCD observation deck near the front of the ship.  Obviously a real glass observation deck didn’t make sense in an airship. Even bulletproof glass isn’t impenetrable. But small cameras outside the ship allowed for an HD view of the outside and the screen was top of the line. The deck even featured a rail and the screen continued down far enough that you could look down and see the landscape below.  It helped that there were handsome soldiers on the deck posed in the social chairs when the reporters came by. 

“Excuse me.” A nasal-like female voice came from behind her. Megan turned to look but couldn’t see her badge. There was quite a large crowd of various reporters. Megan was getting the best pictures by staying behind and not asking questions. The woman continued, “Why are these men separated into groups? How does the UN expect to run a ship called Peacekeeper when their crew all speaks different languages, and they stay segregated?”

Our tour guide, Lucas, a photogenic French soldier with a strong accent, but impeccable English, never lost his smile. “Ms. Trueman, these men met for the first time twelve hours ago and while knowing the same language is important, the council decided that loyalty, disposition and skill were more important. Even if they had decreed that a common language were necessary, English may not have been the commonality. However, we are all well trained in our jobs and are all loyal to this ship. Give it a few weeks, Ms. Trueman, and we’ll all be sitting and eating together like one big happy family.”

Ms. Trueman opened her mouth to retort but Lucas had already turned and ushered them back down the hallway. It was when they reached the end of that hallway that something made Megan pause.  Lucas had opened the last door with his clearance card and simply said, “It’s just storage right now. We still need to unpack, but eventually this will be one of several medical safe stations. The main sick bay is on the third level, but each level has a basic care area where soldiers can hole up and patch up if the occasion demands.

“Do you expect that the Peacekeeper will be attacked? Is this a terrorist target?” Ms. Trueman quipped up again.

“We screen who comes in very carefully, Ms. Trueman. You saw how much paperwork and background checks it took for you to be allowed in did you not? But that does not dismiss the idea that the ship can be attacked if only from other aircrafts. This is just in case. And this, Ladies and Gentleman, concludes our tour. If you will follow me…”

As he led the tour away, Megan stared at the open door to the dark room. The doors so far always seemed to close after about thirty seconds after they had been cleared. It had already been at least twenty. She didn’t know why she was still standing there. The tour was getting farther away and would notice that she lagged behind any second. The door would close any second. Time seemed to slow down until her heart beat with the seconds until she knew it would close. Like waiting for a stoplight to turn red or for your crush to walk in the clubroom door. Suddenly she heard a click and without thinking of the consequences, she stepped inside and the door slid shut behind her.

Afterwards, she felt…confused. Why did she do that? What could she do now that she was in? She stood there for probably ten minutes expecting the door to slide open again and see disapproving faces. Worst case scenario they would just throw her off the ship, right? Maybe threaten her with jail. She didn’t have any weapons, it’s not like she was a terrorist. She just…didn’t want to leave. Didn’t want to go back to the way things were before she came.

Ten minutes later, no one had come. So she sat on one of the crates, opened up her laptop and began to type. She should have been typing about her trip and exciting things for the club website, but she didn’t. She wrote down how she felt. What she wanted. Probably for the first time had it been so clear. Stepping through the door felt she had finally taken the plunge. The darkness of the room didn’t scare her at all. It was cold but refreshing like the plunge had been real.

She only stopped typing because her laptop dimmed. She was almost out of battery. Which was strange, she should have had at least six hours of solid battery. Oh… she’d been there six hours? The clock on the bottom right of her screen confirmed it. It was then that she heard the series of muffled pops. Vaguely, she remembered hearing something like that noise a while before but she’d been so entranced in writing, she’d written it off as strange ship noises. But these pops were closer.  Quickly she shut her laptop and shoved it back in her bag. She’d only meant to look at the door panel and see if there was some kind of light switch or something. She was using her phone as light when she approached and wasn’t prepared for the door to slide open.

When the door opened, she was greeted by a gun.  Behind the gun was a dark haired man in a Hawaii shirt, his media pass dangling from his neck that said, “Trekies Unite” with an emphasis on UN. Behind him was what appeared to be other media personnel, but their faces were no longer eager and smiling and they were all carrying guns.

“Dad, do we have to kill her? She was part of the tour.” A girl about Megan’s age with long black hair said this to a tall man in a dark brown suit with a badge that said COAT which she found out later means, Chroniclers of All Terrains and then added, “Jake, put your gun down!

“Leave her alive.” The Commander said and turned away. “Continue the sweep. Kill only as necessary. I’ll go make the announcement. They may not choose death if the lives of the city below are at stake. We need them as crew until we bring our brothers on board.” He stopped then and gestured towards Megan one last time. “Take her media. Last thing we need is this getting out too soon.”

As he walked away, most of the men broke away. Half took the stairs and half took the elevators. Megan was left with the man with a gun and the girl with black hair. The girl approached with a smile and a hand held out. “Hi! I’m Nina.”

Eventually Megan was given back her laptop. Her private thoughts had been screened well by Nina and deemed cutting edge, just like hers. Just like her organization. Megan wasn’t sure how. She’d basically just written ten pages of how it felt like to have done something she shouldn’t. How free it was to make a decision not based on acceptable standards, but by what she really wanted. These people were basically humanitarian terrorists.

An American group of modern day…liberal Luddites? They called themselves the Peacemakers, which was a bad pun considering the name of the ship they hijacked and what they were doing was less than peaceful.  She knew what was happening on the ground below. Because she was allowed to walk freely, she sometimes heard Nina’s father talk about new targets, usually manufacturing plants and technology hubs specifically Novum factories. There was one day on the observation deck that she tried to talk to Nina about it. “Nina, you’re murdering innocent people.”

She laughed and said, “This isn’t murder. This is war. There are no innocent people in war. And besides, the innocent people have already died long before we started this.”

“Who decided this is a war? You can’t decide something like that by yourself. If you attack and kill people without provocation, it’s murder.” Megan argued, feeling flustered that Nina just didn’t seem to understand that there were people in those small dark spots below that were being blown up.

 “Says who? You fight us. We fight you. That makes it a war. It has never mattered before who started it.”

“Why? This is your home too. By taking over this one ship and using it as a weapon, you’re making war with everyone. How do you think this is going to end?”

“In the end, we win and destroy this hunk of junk. We go back to our camp in the mountains. Do you know how beautiful those mountains are? The air is still breathable there, Megan. There isn’t any of this high machinery and technology that ruins lives.”  Her voice was wistful and she had a sweet smile as she continued. “People that are so smart like that have the ability to do useful things. Like cure cancer or feed the hungry, Megan. But instead they make weapons and create machines that take work away from honest people. Then they have the gall to make this huge instrument of destruction…and call it the Peacekeeper. As Nina talked, she ran her hand down one of the ship’s support columns that had a familiar red Novum plastered down the side. This world needs change. We don’t do this for selfish reasons. We do it for the greater good.” She stopped and looked at Megan, reaching out to hold her hand with the innocence of a sister. A sister that neither Megan nor Nina ever had. “I do this for you, Megan.”

Somewhere inside, Megan felt a tug of understanding. Never agreement, but an understanding that Nina really felt what her father was doing was right. But she had no grasp of how deep the hole for them had been dug. “Nina… you’re right. You have changed the world with what you have done already, but it’s not enough. You can destroy the manufacturers, but you can’t destroy every weapon that already exists. Likewise with technology, the knowledge exists even if the proof isn’t there.  This utopia that you’ve imagined doesn’t exist. It can’t.”

Nina’s smile wavered only slightly but she only gripped Megan’s hand tighter. “You’ll see.”

 It was then that they were interrupted by Jake, who as usual ignored Megan and spoke only to Nina. “Nina, Commander Taig wants to see you alone.”

Nina squeezed Megan’s hand once more and teased, “So will you be eating with Luuuuucas today?”

Megan blushed and nodded, then pulled her hand away awkwardly. “Yeah… Sorry, Nina. They misunderstand when I eat with you.” 

“It’s fine. Dad wants to talk to me anyway.” Nina replied as she followed Jake out the door.

Megan watched her leave feeling helpless. The original crew had refused to let Megan eat with them after the takeover precisely because of her friendship with Nina. Since they had all been in the press tour, it made sense that they thought Megan was in on the plan, even if she wasn’t.  It was only by her repeated requests on their behalf that she was invited at all. Lucas was the only multi-lingual soldier on board, which was why he had been tasked with running the tour months before. He was the one who had talked with Megan even when the rest wanted her to die.

She was on the way to lunch when she heard Nina’s high-pitched scream coming from the Commander’s office.  She ran down the narrow hallway but was stopped by Jake and Neil outside the door.

“What’s going on?” Megan demanded.

Jake narrowed his eyes at her and said nothing.  Neil just murmured, “Move on.”

Megan was about to yell to Nina inside when the screaming continued. “You can’t leave me. You said we were winning. You said we were fighting for a better tomorrow. You said that family should always be together. YOU SAID!”

“Nina, “The Commanders voice was barely audible from where Megan stood.  She never heard the rest because Jake shifted forward causing her to back up or be shoved.

“He said, move on.” Megan backed up and gave him a sour look. He’d never actually touched her, but the memory of his gun in her face and the angry looks he always gave her made her think that he wouldn’t hesitate if she gave him a good reason. Nina’s screaming was disturbing, but at least she wasn’t being harmed. So she turned and continued to the cafeteria.

September 3rd, 2025, 15:00

Megan looked up to appeal to Jake, whose brow was raised in confusion although his eyes and gun never left her. Behind him was his partner Neil, who rushed forward to check the Commander for a pulse. Two shots rang out, making Megan jump and then wail as Jake shifted slightly and looked past Megan to Nina before slumping down to the ground.

“Jake!” She scooted up and put her hand over his chest. They had never been particularly close, but she knew… he always did his job; he had been as innocent as Nina.

“It’s okay, Megan, we’ll see him when we’re done, okay? He’s just going to set up camp first.” Nina’s voice behind her didn’t shake or betray what she’d done at all. Megan looked down at the now dead man in front of her. His gun still clenched in his hand.

“Nina, they aren’t going to be meeting us anywhere.”

“Says who?  Who decided they are dead? You can’t decide something like that by yourself.” Nina’s words rang with familiarity. A twisted version of the conversation they’d already had. She had lost it, if she ever had it to begin with. In her heart, Megan felt again a pause.  Nina either didn’t care if she killed her own people or she really thought she was leading them to their sacred technology-free campfire. Nina had said that she couldn’t let her go. She’d killed her own father, whether sane or insane. Once again, every second seemed to slow until her heartbeat with the seconds until she knew she would die. Like waiting for a door to open or waiting for a door to close. Suddenly she heard a click, or it could have been just a shift of the feet but without thinking of the consequences, she grabbed Jake’s gun and turned around- aiming it at Nina.

“What are you doing, Megan?” Nina looked confused. “You are just like me. You know this is for the greater good. We can’t leave the others behind. “

“I know, Nina. I won’t leave the others behind. But I’m doing this for you.”  Megan fired one shot. She expected to have to do it several times and she expected to be shot in turn. But luck had it that she hit Nina on the first shot and Nina was smiling.

Afterwards, Megan stood there for probably ten minutes expecting the door to the observation deck to burst open and her death to follow.  When the door opened, her eyes were clenched shut and she waited for the loud pops and whatever pain would follow. Instead she felt arms wrap around her and the gun pulled from her hands. “Hold tight, Megan, it’s Lucas. We’ve got you.”

September 3rd, 2025 – 1800

As the ship docked and soldiers flooded in, Megan turned away from the blood-splattered screens and walked carefully around the humanity left on the floor. The question came again that seemed to encompass everyone and everything that had ever been or ever would be. Was it worth it?