[Posted to alt.games.wing-commander August 29, 1997]
Below me, the sunlit hemisphere of Elysion beckoned with all its luxuriant, seductive beauty. Though impatient to land and begin my new life, I was too good a pilot to take foolish shortcuts. Taking my time, I eased the Sappho onto the safest vector through the orbiting mines. Deactivation would last another thirty minutes, of course, but a pilot who wanted to die in bed took no unnecessary risks, especially with such a valuable cargo.
Occupied with my delicate maneuvers, I paid little attention to the recorded news my comm officer had piped to the co-pilot's console. Barbara, however, happily ensconced in the co-pilot's seat, seemed to be enjoying it. Maybe she got a kick out of watching Dam Blather make an idiot out of himself as the new lead anchor of the Nightly News.
Between course corrections, I caught snatches of the broadcast myself. "...known as the Heart of the Tiger...disgraced...permanently retired... strain of long and hazardous service...new revelations daily...scandal... embezzlement...private army...fixing parking tickets...paternity suits... rumored to have taken the Last Jump Point...whereabouts unknown."
Amen to that last part. After Nephritis, I'd taken the Sappho to the very limits of Confederation territory. Though there was no sign of pursuit, I followed my elaborate deception routine to the letter. Approaching the Last Jump Point, I'd sent an unmanned shuttle ahead, activated the Sappho's newly installed cloaker, and turned aside at the last instant. Any observer would be convinced we were gone forever. Still cloaked, we made our way to an obscure jump point and headed for our real destination.
That destination was growing closer by the moment. We were clearing the mines, now, and shuttles from the planet were clamoring for docking vectors. Clint, my comm officer, had to keep putting them off.
Meanwhile, Blather droned on. "Barbara Dahl in seclusion...rumored pregnancy ...not pressing charges..." I quit listening for a moment, as I slipped the Sappho past the last few mines, then tuned in again when we were in the clear.
"Four weeks before the election, Elsie Hinton, daughter of the incumbent, has a commanding lead in the polls. The Secret Service has already stepped up its recruiting efforts, anticipating the demands of a younger, more activist Chief Executive."
I called over to my comm officer. "Hey, Clint, looks like your daughter's going to be President of the Confederation!"
He turned to me and smiled, drawling, "Ah feel their pain." He started to say something more, then stopped.
"Something on your mind, Clint?"
"Er, yeah. It's just that ever since ah met you in person, somethin's been botherin' me."
"Chris, aren't yew the guy from--"
"No, I'm n-- Oh hell, I give up! Yes! I'm the guy from 'Corvette Summer!' OK? HAPPY?" Sheesh. I'd been trying to live that down my whole life. The fifth remake of the Twentieth Century classic had been an unmitigated disaster from start to finish, finally displacing "Showgirls" as the winner of the most "Razzie" awards. I'd only taken the starring role to earn my Academy tuition; I should have robbed a bank instead.
Clint's grin went from ear to ear. "Ah jest LOVED thet show!" Humming the awful "Corvette Summer" theme--it won a "Razzie"--he went back to his work.
I just rolled my eyes. No wonder Rillary never bothered looking for him.
Time for orbital insertion. I programmed an equatorial orbit and sat back to let the autopilot take us in. Noting that Barbara was still intently watching Dam Blather, I gently nudged her.
"Jeez, Barbi--Barbara. Haven't you had enough of that guy yet?"
"Rawwk! The price of news is eternal Blather! Awwk!" Barbara flapped her wings and swooped up to my shoulder.
I ruffled her tummy feathers. "Enjoy him while you can, hon. You won't see the Nightly News again for a hundred and fifty years." Afterward, if Confed wanted to dig up my bones and recall them to active duty, that was just fine with me.
The hatch opened, and Justin Thyme came onto the flight deck with my two girls. "Hey there, Clint," he said. "Miss the Dragon Lady yet? Heh heh. Hi, Chris. Your girls wanted a look at their new h-- Whoa! That's one beautiful world down there!"
Not one to waste her time on something she couldn't eat, Rachel barely glanced at the view before leaping into my lap. Barbara eyed her suspiciously, but Rachel was interested only in a tummy rub. Robin, in contrast, settled into the co-pilot's seat and peered intently at the planet below us.
"It certainly is, Justin." I lazily caressed Rachel's tummy, marvelling yet again at the downy softness of her under-fur.
"So why'd you name it Elysion, Chris?"
"In Greek mythology, Elysion was the part of the underworld roughly equivalent to the Christian Heaven, or Paradise. Now that we're dead to the rest of humanity, what better place to spend eternity, eh?"
"No argument there." Justin paused a moment before continuing in a different tone. "Look, Chris, the men want to thank you--hell, I want to thank you--for what you're doing. I mean, we had our doubts when it looked like you were just using us to seize power, and we thought you were fucking nuts when you pulled that stunt at the Pink House, but we should have known you wouldn't let us down. We should have believed in you, like you believed in us."
"You did, Justin. All of you, including the kids. If just one of you had lost faith and spilled the beans, we wouldn't be here. Besides, I didn't give you much choice, heh heh."
The ship's AI signalled orbital insertion. I shut down the engines and checked our orbital parameters...perfect. Almost immediately, I felt a slight shudder from the ship, as the first of the impatient shuttles docked with us.
Grinning, I turned to my friends. "OK, everybody, last stop. Justin, why don't you go greet our new neighbors? I'll be along as soon as I shut down."
"My pleasure. Who wants to come with me?"
"Yahoo! Ah'm comin'!"
When the dust had settled, I was alone on the flight deck.
Though flight systems shutdown was a simple procedure, I found myself lingering over each item on the checklist, reluctant perhaps to abandon my last command to the wreckers. Old and tired, she had nevertheless served me as faithfully as she had served her previous owners...
Strangely, though my memories of Robin and Rachel were as vivid as ever, I no longer felt the pain of losing them. Perhaps I'd finally accepted the fact that they were never really mine to lose. Or perhaps it was the certainty that my long search for a life's companion was finally near its end. After all, if I couldn't find my soulmate on a planet full of farmer's daughters, then she didn't exist anywhere in the galaxy.
Well, enough screwing around. After a final check of the instruments, I left the pilot's seat and headed for the hatch. I couldn't begin my new life until we'd transferred the Sappho's cargo: Blair Youth, Special Servicemen, farm equipment, earthworms, one bioconvergence chemist, and four PAL test subjects.
And fifty thousand D-cup bras.