No word back from Analog yet. Keep your fingers crossed!
Anyway, when last we left off, the Solar Alliance forces were dealt a terrible blow by the Great Enemy capital ship. The Bastille has retreated for now to lick its wounds, and Admiral du Saniel actually finds a little quiet time. We also learn a little more about him as a person.
Skies of blue, and fields of green. Renoir couldn’t tell if it was Earth or Terranis; the two were so similar to each other, and Terranis had been crafted in Earth’s image. Belladrix’s sky at least had a tinge of pink to it. The wind blew through the tall grasses around him, and snow-capped mountains glittered in the distance. There he stood, his black uniform making a stark contrast against the bright and serene colors of nature. His attention drifted to his side, and he saw someone else standing in the otherwise empty field.
He started to walk towards the person, whose back was to him. He could only see white robes and flowing blue hair billowing in the breeze. As he approached, the form seemed to grow larger. No, not larger. Wings were unfolding from its back. Brilliant white, they seemed to radiate with their own light. They spread out until they were fully extended, each nearly twice as long as the person was tall. They flexed, and a few white feathers shook loose to blow past him in the breeze.
A voice, soft and feminine, comforting and ageless, echoed in his mind. He knew the distant figure was speaking, even with her back to him. “You seem troubled. Are the trials you face so much worse than the ones which came before?”
He kept walking slowly towards the figure. While her voice simply seemed to come out of the air, he spoke with his mouth. “Have I been too arrogant? Is this the result of my pride blinding me? I thought I could overcome this without difficulty, but my greatest resources are no match for them.”
The wings flexed a little, and the head tilted, as if in contemplation. “You fear your doom. It is a natural fear, even for the greatest of heroes. But is your faith so weak?”
“I don’t know. Is it even possible for us to survive this?” He was nearly to her. Her face was still hidden from him, and the wings were beginning to fold back in. She held up bare and slender arms to the wind, and seemed to ignore his question for a moment.
“We are still here. We will not abandon you now.” He was standing right behind her now. The wings were folded back in entirely. The figure began to turn, and he caught the edges of her face. He saw the mouth move this time. “We will always be watching.”
The door chime sounded, and his adjutant chip fired a small dose of adrenaline into du Saniel’s brain, forcing him awake instantly. He bolted up in his chair, and looked towards the door of his ready room.
“Yes, enter,” he called out. The door slid open and Captain Legun stepped in. His face was impassive, though he held his datapad to his chest.
“We’ve pulled into orbit around Terranis. We’re holding position over the eastern continent, with a large part of the moon between us and the Enemy ship. They’re advancing slowly, perhaps recharging their systems for another bombardment.
“We’ve also attempted a system-wide survey of space-capable assets. We have the inter-planetary transports that evacuated people from Belladrix to Terranis, but that’s it. All the mining transports and other outposts across the system, plus all orbital stations and satellites, appear to have been destroyed at this point.”
“So…the Bastille is the only human vessel left capable of leaving the system,” Renoir said quietly. Legun merely nodded. Renoir sighed and rubbed his face with a hand. He glanced around his ready room, his eyes drifting to the different objects placed about it by him.
A shelf behind him held a handful of leather-bound books; an antiquated notion in this era, but something that appealed to his sense of tradition. The works spanned a broad range of time and topics, from the ancient Les Misérables to the more contemporary Reflections of the Sun.
Hanging on the wall was a glass case showing the best of the medals he had earned. A second case below it showed a number of lesser ones, adding quantity to the quality of the first case. Central among the medals in the first case was the Star of Valor, one of the highest awards in the galaxy. Only a handful of officers in a military of billions received it each year.
Along the far wall was a massive painting of the Bastille, emerging from the brilliant clouds of the Crab Nebula, while several fighters and All-Terrain Suits swooped around it dramatically. Renald had the painting specifically commissioned for himself, created in the traditional style of canvas and paint, rather than having it done digitally.
Finally, on du Saniel’s desk was his work terminal and a short stack of datapads. Otherwise, the polished wood was bare. There were no pictures of family members or loved ones. Nothing to indicate an actual attachment to other people.