Characters: Terry Hale
I know there's always something We have to go through That has some deeper meaning but Right now I just can't say I know there's gonna be a lesson somewhere I'm gonna think a lot about it later But right now I'm miles away Miles away Hey hey I'm miles away Hey hey hey I'm miles away I'm a million miles away – "Miles Away" by Marc Cohn
Her second thought on looking back over the bridge, was that it looked just like the war, all over again. Consoles sparked, the walls groaned and overhead fixtures gaped with cracks that threw out garlands of wires and tubing along with the acrid smoke. She didn’t have to imagine what the upper decks looked like, and she tried not to think about anyone who might have been caught there as well.
Terry picked herself up of the floor, eyes squeezing shut a moment as her body made it’s protests. Probing fingers found her side badly bruised, not broken. Good enough.
“Captain. Damage reports coming in….”
Terry lifted her head to listen to Yoshino list the reports, deck by deck. Decks One through three were as good as gone. Four through — hell, the whole place was showing structural damage. Just about everything was offline or wavering dangerously close to a shutdown. Uncertain if it was a blessing or not, one of the systems that was still working was the external sensors. It worked perfectly well on detecting their approaching death, in the form of three massive warships.
“Bring us about to face them,” Hale ordered, “Viewscreen up and get those weapons online.”
“Captain. We’re getting another power surge from the planet. It’s massive–”
Yoshino never got a chance to finished her hurried warning. Terry suddenly sagged into her seat, a puppet with cut strings.
The white light didn’t diminish when she felt herself whole again, and with her first gasp Terry dragged in cool, antiseptic air. She was sitting in a chair, all metal bars and molded plastic. Hospital, she identified immediately. Sterile and quiet, hiding the chaos of emotions that permeated the place, to the point even the dullest minds could sense. Her last year on Earth she’d lived half those days in a hospital. And Warren lived them all there till the end.
The steady beep of a heart monitor brought her eyes to the bed, and then never left. Her vision blurred with tears.
“I shouldn’t be here,” she heard her own voice rasp, as if from a great distance. She could almost see herself sitting there, clothes rumpled from too many hours living from post to pillar, hair pulled back in a messy tail, it’s luster lost.
A warm hand closed over hers. “You’re right,” Warren returned, voice weak, “but I’m glad you came.” He smiled past the pain and the tubes that forced him to hold on to life. Terry almost reached past him, to smash the machines, to end the pain. She was already accused of a murder, so what was one more? What was there to loose now? She’d hesitated the first time, because there was a slim chance the treatments would work. Now she knew better… didn’t she? He’d only live another month. She’d be gone for years.
Her hands didn’t move from under his, trapped on the bed.
“It’s all right,” Warren whispered, squeezing her fingers with half the strength there used to be.
No it wasn’t, Terry thought, but she couldn’t get it past the constriction in her throat.
It was ironic. In a time when war was just beginning to bud, and would grow to a conflagration unrivaled for a thousand years, she watched her husband die simply from a disease. She couldn’t blame any shadow organization, or war’s violence. It was nothing she could stop of fix, with all the White Stars in the fleet.
It happened every day.
“It’s all right,” Warren repeated. “You should go, before they find you here. It’s not safe.”
“I don’t care.”
Terry found a watery smile. “I’ll go soon.” But there was first something to do. Something she hadn’t gotten right the first time. Standing, she leaned down and kissed him, once on the lips and then on the cheek, eyes closed against the sight of the tubes and the sick pallor of his skin. “I love you,” she murmured. Straightening, she opened her eyes and looked down on him.
Warren’s smile was stronger, with surprise and a pleasure that was it’s own kind of pain. Terry had never been very good at saying and doing the right thing with him. It took her six years and a mad mission into Vorlon space, but she’d gotten it right. Slowly she stepped back.
“Love you, Ter,” Warren’s voice followed her to the door. “Keep your head.”
She threw him a smile with her last strength, and ducked a look out into the hall. Clear, for the moment. She slipped out, turning quick for the nearest exit.
And right down the corridor, two uniformed police and one plainclothes detective turned into view, ushering Warren’s two teenage children and their uncle ahead of them for a visitation. She remembered they were watching Warren, in hopes of catching her, but it hadn’t happened like this before. Terry had waited too long to leave, whittling away her lead.
The oldest of the two kids, her stepson, saw her first. Trevor’s eyes widened, face lighting up out of the misery they were all slumped in. The boy’s mouth opened, and Terry silently begged him not to.
Terry swore under her breath at herself. Trevor didn’t need to ruin it. She was doing it quite well on her own, standing like a deer in the headlights. Now one of the uniforms had seen her, and heads were turning at his shout.
She expected the sudden scramble for her, but not what the kids did. With an audible explosion of breath, the police went down in a jumble of limbs, tripped up before they could hit full speed.
“Run!” Trevor shouted, waving an arm out of the tangle he’d help create. Terry didn’t waste another moment, bolting for the stairs.
She was at the bottom of the stairwell before she heard the door boom open again. Not wasting the moment to look back, she burst out into the sunny parking lot —
–And nearly fell out of her chair on the bridge of the Phoenix. Watching everyone else shake free of the… whatever it was, Terry was amazed they were still around to wake up. What were the warships doing?
Behind her, Terry heard Morgan leaned against her board, letting out a long breath. “Diw,” she muttered. “What next?”
Gasping like she’d run a marathon, Kim Matsumoto was quick to add her own.
“You had to ask that question, Meg, didn’t you?” the Science Chief scolded breathlessly. Glancing over Terry was surprised to see a bemused smile on the woman’s face. Maybe these trips weren’t so terrible for everyone.
Terry turned away, facing forward again to peer at the screen an the viewports beyond. The warships filled both with their glittering massive presence. We should have been dead, she thought. Why not, then?
“I’m reading weapons charged, but they’re not firing,” Morgan reported.
“Then why aren’t they firing? Get our weapons online,” Terry ordered, “And I want to know what the Hell’s been hitting us. ASAP.”
She kept herself from saying “yesterday”. It had gone beyond a bad joke into an eerie twisted reality that she had the terrible feeling a million miles wouldn’t bring enough distance between to escape.
Copyright (c) 1998 Alida Saxon. All rights reserved.