“Angelina! Angelia, where are you?”
Blasted Crestas! What was Raymond thinking? Governor of a multi-race? Idiot! Pound up these porch steps one last time; I’ll probably never see… Damn! Don’t think! Just—
“Here, Peter! Everyone’s accounted for. Cerulean and Roux are running the— Isn’t Paul with you?”
My heart has stopped. Really stopped.
“No. I thought he was helping you.”
“He was. But I sent him to find you.”
“I’ve been doing a perimeter check. Everything’s down. Crestas certainly know how to blast their way into—”
Tears are filling her eyes. Focus! No tears—not yet…Her voice cracks.
“He’s probably helping with the last of the evacs. Don’t worry, honey, I’ll find him.”
Yeah, sure. The whole planet is blowing to pieces… okay. Stop! Exaggeration won’t help. Think!
“Where was he heading?”
Good, she’s getting a hold of herself.
“To Capitol Hill.”
“You go ahead. I’m sure he’s around. Cerulean’s probably got everyone else in transport. He snagged a friendly Bhuac trader who was heading home to Helm, but she said she’d take us to Lux first.”
“I’m not leaving without my son!”
“Me neither. But it won’t help having the two of us wandering— Wait. Holy Hill! I know where he is. Go on! Tell that Bhuac to wait. I’ll be right back!”
The whole world is falling into enemy hands, but my son wants a last private moment with his hero.
He’s so little for eleven. The Crestas would tower over him like a mountain. But not a hint of fear in those eyes.
“Hey, son, come on! Your mother’s worried sick, and Cerulean’s holding a Bhuac trading ship for us. We’ve got to hurry.”
“I’m not leaving.”
“What? Don’t be insane. You’re leaving if I have to pick you up and carry you!”
“This is our home. Our planet. The Crestas have no right!”
He’s hugging Doctor Mike’s statue as if he thinks it’ll protect him. So young… So foolish.
“They have much bigger weapons, and they’re going to use them. Now quite acting like a child and hurry up. Once their scout teams come this way, they’ll take us prisoners…if we’re lucky.”
“I don’t care.”
“Well, I care! We can’t win. Not this time. We’ve got to leave—now!”
“Doctor Mike wouldn’t. He’d stay and fight.”
“By the Divide! He didn’t. When humanity lost the first time, he left. And for good reason! There’s a time to walk away…or run away and come back later. Right now we’ve got a real good reason to run.”
“Will we come back…later?”
If my heart keeps falling like this, I’ll never find it again.
“I hope so. Come on, son. Your mother’s frantic. And Cerulean will have my head.”
Good boy… Ah, dang it, he’s wiping his eyes with his sleeve. I hate that. I can’t feel, I’ve got to think.
Damn! Cresta scouts…
“Hold still. We’ll not accept resistance.”
“Resistance? Look, my hands are up. Put your hands up, Paul. Listen, we’re just leaving. No need to worry about us resisting…”
Oh, God! He’s leveling his weapon.
“Tamir! Is that you?”
Thank God, Cerulean! I can breathe again… The scout’s not pleased though. Still, Cerulean could charm an Ingoti water rat…
“Do I know you, human?”
Gotta love Cerulean’s smile.
“Luxonian. Though I can see how you might make the mistake. Don’t you remember me? Cerulean. I was in the leadership council between the Ingal and the Supreme Judges back on Cresta in 04.”
“Oh, my apologies. I didn’t realize. Are these your—”
“Yes, they’re mine. Thank you for holding them. I’ve been looking for them everywhere. Please, go about your business. I don’t think you’ll find anyone else. Emergency transportation has been arranged. Next time… you might like to give a little more notice.
“We gave the humans a full day. We’re not always so courteous with our enemies.”
“Enemies! You’re the ene—”
I have to stopper my son’s mouth. Sorry, but there’s a time to shut up. Cerulean glares at him but swings a full grin at the Cresta. Man, he’s good.
“Forgive the youth. He’s inexperienced.”
“Take him or I’ll give him an experience.”
On board the Bhuac transport. Peter leans back with his eyes closed on the cushioned bench with Angelina’s sleeping head resting on his shoulder. Paul hunches between crates at his father’s feet.
Cerulean steps into the small cargo space. His eyes travel from Peter to Angelina—to Paul. He beckons to Paul in silence.
Paul lumbers to his feet. His red, swollen gaze scrapes the floor.
Cerulean lifts Paul’s chin so that their gaze locks.
“This is not the end. You’ll return home. Luxonians will work things out with the Crestas.”
“And what if another race decides they want Newearth? Will you save us again? There will always be more of them than us.”
True, but defeat isn’t the answer. Grieve, as you must, but when you recover, I’ll be waiting. There will come a day. You’ll return. And I’ll come with you.”
“Because… It’s my home too.”