For the Moon: 7
Captain slapped restraints on my wrists and I allowed it with a bowed head. The war wound down, all parties went their separate ways. We convened outside of our ship, a breath of fresh air on the moon we would all share. I had saved everyone. And now I would be punished for it.
Hein ambled up to us, keeping a short distance. When Captain spotted her, his attention wandered onto the deck of the ship. “What is Colin doing in there? Don’t move a muscle while I go check on him.” A tiny smirk tugged at his lips as he glanced between Hein and me, then he marched up the ramp, giving us our privacy.
“Many thanks,” Hein said to me in her native tongue once Captain left earshot.
“Thank you. I never could have ended this without you.”
“I should be bound also.” She frowned at my fetters.
“That is the decision of your people. Captain has no command over you.”
“You did the good thing,” she insisted. “You deserve accolades.”
“I am fine with what I get. Putting a stop to the destruction is enough.”
“You are a good man, Nolan.”
I managed a smile. “You are also good, Sorwizenhein.”
“I was close.” I fiddled with my chain links before adding, “Will your people be understanding? Will you be safe?”
“My people are of peace,” she assured me. “They will exalt this truce. I will be sure to relay the story of your heroism. Even if your people scorn you, know that Kraikanatowahau will be singing your name for years to come.”
Warmth spread across my cheeks. “Thank you.”
Her nose scrunched in amusement as she stuck out a hand for my sake. “It was nice to meet you.”
As she had the first time, I ignored the shake and lifted my clunky, shackled wrists up to my face, tapping three fingers to my temple. “You are a blessing to my existence, Hein.”
She thumped a fist to her chest. “Until the next war, Nolan.”
As she walked away, the Captain strolled up from behind me. “Quite a fascinating alliance you created.”
“The Kraiks have good hearts.”
“It would seem so.”
I cleared my throat. “Not to spoil things, but what happens now?”
“We head back to Corsius. You’re put on trial for deserting your team and threatening the safety of our system.”
I nodded. “Which I am guilty of.”
“If they find you guilty, you’ll likely be imprisoned for most of your life.”
He peered after Hein. “Such a strange universe we live in.”
A twinkle returned to his eye. “A man like me can live fifty years with staunch convictions only to have his ground shaken by a boy of sixteen.”
I blinked. “Have I shaken you, sir?”
“This is all hypothetical, of course.”
He sighed. “All I wanted was to protect Corsius.”
“I wanted that too, sir.”
“Yet here we are,” he grieved, “on opposing sides.”
“I will never oppose you,” I assured him. “No matter my ideals, you will always be Captain.”
His jaw tightened and he rested a hand on top of my curly head. “At ease, Nolan. At ease.”
I glanced over my shoulder at the deck of the ship where Wes and the other soldiers scrubbed at the blood of their fallen brothers, laying to rest those we lost.
“I was sorry to see Samson among them,” Captain read my mind. “A good soldier and friend, I know.”
Sadness and contentment welled up as one and the same. “Fear not the fallen, grieve not the grave, Captain.”
His eyebrow raised with a question that he dared not ask. “Would you like to see him?”
My heart thudded much too fast. “I don’t know.”
He placed a strong grip on my shoulder. “In life he always gave you what you needed. Maybe he can do that in death too.”
I held my breath as he led me to a patch of the moon where our lost troop lined up in the sand, prepared for interment. A third of the way down, my friend laid soundly as if only a deep sleep kept him from me. Captain stepped ahead of me and folded Samson’s hands over his cold, breathless chest, the most respectful position possible. Though the action was meant as a kindness, watching him manipulate the lifeless form of my friend made the grief real again, the initial sight of Samson among the bloody battle crashing down on my mind.
Captain straightened up and waved me to him. “I’ll give you a few minutes. Don’t go anywhere.”
Once alone, I stooped beside Samson, a tear finally clinging to my lashes after the day of stoicism. “Hey, buddy,” I greeted him as he always greeted me. “How’s it going? You missed all the excitement. I pretty much won the war single-handedly, what do you think of that?”
I sprawled in the sand next to him, my fingers fidgeting as my control slipped away. “I hate to admit it, but it was because of you, you know. I saved the worlds because of you. I never even would have tried if this hadn’t happened. If you hadn’t-”
My throat closed up, but I shook it off. “Maybe Captain’s right. You keep giving even after you’re gone. You always helped me see what I needed to see. And to end this war, I guess this is what I needed to see. You deserve a damn medal or something, you prick. I do all the leg work but you’re still the one that made it all happen, as always.”
His ashen, still expression hardly looked like him, without his goofy spirit enhancing it. I had to tear my eyes away. Then the placement of his folded hands caught my avoiding gaze because beneath the red stains, a shimmer blinked at me.
With care, and my skin prickling with sorrow at his cold touch, I slid a tiny key from his grip. Confusion only rattled my mind for a second before I clicked the key into the lock of my bindings, a perfect fit. A whirled around myself, kicking up sand, and the Captain proved nowhere to be found.
A laugh bubbled up my throat and I grabbed my friend by the hand. “You really do keep on giving, don’t you?” I planted a kiss on his forehead. “Thank you, Samson.”
I slipped out of the fetters and sprinted in the direction of the reservoir, in the direction Hein had gone. Once the ship was a distance behind me, I spared one more glance over my shoulder and smiled to myself. “Thank you, Captain.”
I spotted the brownish dot of Hein on the skyline ahead of me and charged after her, embracing the afterlife of a glorified soldier.
© 2021 by Kelsey Garber