Welcome back, eager readers, to the third installment of the thrilling, high-quality, not-at-all-silly science fiction masterpiece of my 13-year-old self, Fighting For the Galaxy!
To get you in the right mood, here’s some heroic space battle music courtesy of YouTube:
And boy, is this a chapter deserving of epic music, as it features an ASTOUNDING space battle with a NOT AT ALL STUPID conclusion! Wow!
Of course, the majority of the chapter involves T.J. and Rendar reluctantly locking lips while Jess and Mark attend Jen’s totally rockin’ party, but what sci-fi fan isn’t dying to know how Mark and Jess met, or how cute Jen’s new guy, Steve, is? (Spoilers: He is TOTALLY cute.)
So, venture below, intrepid readers, and journey once more into the distant future of 2007…!
Fighting For the Galaxy
by (13-year-old) T.J. Baer
In which T.J. and Rendar force themselves to kiss one another for the good of the mission, while Jess delights Jen’s party-goers with the thrilling, stalkerish tale of how she and Mark began their ooey-gooey relationship of love. Also, there is a space battle, because sci-fi.
* * *
Rendar shifted uncomfortably as he and T.J. stood staring at each other, neither one wanting to initiate.
“Go on,” she said. “Look, the quicker we do this, the quicker it’ll be over. The first one’ll be the worst, but after that, it will get easier. Just think about something else. Do you have a girlfriend that you could pretend I am?”
“Just do it,” she urged.
Rendar nodded uneasily and moved a bit closer to her. She was obviously no more eager than he was to kiss, but for the sake of the mission, they had to make it convincing. He leaned in slowly and kissed her softly; she ended it seconds after it began.
“Okay,” he said. “That was too quick. Newlyweds don’t just walk around giving each other little pecks like that.”
“You’re right,” she sighed. “Plus, don’t you think arms are involved, too?” She spoke as if he was a two-year-old and knew nothing.
He didn’t take offense; they didn’t have the time to get into little arguments. Rendar just nodded and said, “All right, then, let’s try it again. This time, do you mind if we sit down?”
She motioned to the door that led to the lounge of the ship, which included a couch in it. He slapped the panel and they walked through the doorway. The two sat down on the couch, not too close.
“Unless you have long distance lips,” T.J. remarked, “this is never gonna work.”
They both moved closer, so their legs were touching. They turned so Rendar was facing T.J. and T.J. was facing Rendar. For the first time, she noticed that his eyes were a startling violet. Once again he leaned down, and they both prepared to get more involved in the kiss this time. T.J. hesitantly wrapped her arms around Rendar’s neck, and he put his around her waist. They both closed their eyes and held the kiss for MUCH longer this time. She ran her fingers through his hair; he swept his hands up and down her body. It was definitely more involved than the last one had been.
They pulled back at almost the same instant, both stunned a bit.
T.J. sat back. “Wow,” she said breathlessly. “I’d say we’ve had enough practice for today, wouldn’t you?”
He nodded in agreement, stood up, and walked over to the food distributor. He typed in his selection and soon pulled a ham sandwich out of the slot. Rendar bit into it hungrily and tried not to look at T.J.
But that was okay, because if he had glanced at her, he would’ve discovered her trying to avoid his eyes also. She was reading a book that she had already read several times before.
* * *
The party wasn’t too wild, but Jen was definitely having a fantastic time. She had met this really great guy named Steve, a human like herself.
They had hit it off from the instant they’d met, and already Jen knew him better than she knew herself – that was the kind of intense conversation they were involved in.
“So,” she said to the blond hunk who sat beside her on the couch. “How long have you been in GaMi?”
He shrugged. “A few years, but who’s counting?”
“What rank are you?” she asked curiously, wondering if she was flirting with a commanding officer.
“Sergeant,” he said proudly. “Sergeant Steven Phelps.”
She saluted quickly. “Lieutenant Jennifer Edwards, sir.”
Meanwhile, across the room, Jessica and Mark were talking to some friends of theirs while Jess kept an eye on Jen and her babe. He had almost kissed her once, it was quite obvious that he planned to do it, and Jess was positive that Jen would not resist.
“Jessica?” her friend Felicity said, snapping her fingers in front of Jess’s face. “Jess, are you listening?”
“What? Oh, sorry, Lissy, I was just watching Jen and that guy she picked up.”
Lissy looked where Jess had indicated and smiled as she caught a glimpse of Steve. “WOW!” she exclaimed. “If she doesn’t get him, I’m gonna give it a shot. That is one hot guy!”
Jess nodded. “I’ve never seen better.”
Mark nudged her. “Hey!”
She looked warmly up at him. “Present company excluded, of course,” she said. One flaw in Mark, he could get insanely jealous VERY easily. That was incredibly unfortunate, because it was in Jessica’s very nature to flirt with almost everybody.
Lissy giggled. “Are you jealous, Marky?”
“No, I am not jealous. I have nothing to be jealous about, right, Jessie?”
Jess shook her head and leaned in to kiss him gently on the lips. “No, baby, you don’t,” she told him after they had parted. “I would never cheat on you, no matter what.”
He smiled. “Good. Me neither. You want some punch?”
“Sure, why not.”
He nodded, then remembered Felicity. “Lissy?”
“No, I’m fine,” she told him. And he headed for the other side of the room where the punch bowl was.
“Boy, Jess, you’re lucky to have a guy like Marky,” Lissy commented after Mark had left. “How did you guys meet, anyway?”
Jess grinned as she recalled the incident. “You really wanna hear it?”
Lissy nodded eagerly. “Sure! Go on.”
Jess smiled again. “It was a little over three years ago, when I had just joined GaMi,” Jess narrated.
[And now for a brief, factual interlude…]
[Right, you get the idea. Back to the story.]
“T.J. had already signed up a few months before, so she was showing me around the base,” Jess continued. “We had just gotten to the, oh, what was it? Oh, yeah, the 11th floor, and we were walking down the hallway. She showed me how the mailing computer worked, and then Mark came walking down the hall, a basket of laundry in his arms. I took one look at him and fell instantly in love.”
“Here’s your punch, sweetie,” Mark said as he returned.
“Go on,” Lissy urged Jess.
Mark frowned. “Go on with what?”
“She’s telling me how you guys met,” Lissy answered.
He laughed. “Oh, really? What part is she on?”
“Uh, ‘I took one look at him and fell instantly in love.’”
“Oh,” Mark said. “That part. Mind if I finish? I’ve heard Jessie here tell zillions of friends this story, so I know it by heart.”
Lissy nodded. “Go ahead.”
“Anyway, so the next day she woke up and couldn’t stop thinking about me,” Mark said as Jessica took a sip of her fruit punch. “Truthfully, I had only glanced at her and hadn’t really given her a second thought. But little did I know, she got T.J. to go through the entire list of every single person in this base.”
“No small task,” cut in Jess, “since there are over 1200 people here, but we did it, and the next day I went over to his quarters and knocked.”
“She never uses the doorbell. She never has and I doubt she ever will,” Mark said fondly.
Jess smiled. “He answered the door, looking even better than he had in the hall. I introduced myself, and he actually recognized me from that brief passing. So, he asked me if I would like to have dinner with him, and I accepted. And that, Lissy, is how Mark and me met.”
“Aww,” Lissy said. “That’s sweet.”
She held up her glass. “To many happy years.”
Jess and Mark clinked their glasses together with Lissy’s, and they all took a drink.
At the other side of the room, Jen and Steve chatted over drinks. All alcohol except for champagne and wine was strictly forbidden at GaMi headquarters, so Jen and Steve sipped wine. Sure, there was punch, but Jen had never had a taste for non-alcoholic beverages, though she could tolerate them if necessary. She was sure most of the other party guests would enjoy some wine, but this was from her private stash. In other words, nobody but Jen and Jen’s closest friends got any.
“You have a nice apartment,” Steve complimented between sips. “Did you decorate it yourself, or did it come like this?”
“Actually,” Jen answered as she set her glass on the coffee table, “Jess, T.J., and I fixed it up ourselves. Not bad, huh?”
“No, it’s really nice,” he replied, also placing his wine glass on the table. “I really like it.”
Jen grinned mischievously. “If you like this room, I’m sure you’d love to get a closer look at my other room.” She indicated the bedroom.
He smiled back, stood up, and took a last gulp of his wine.
Jen suppressed a victory cry and followed him into the room.
* * *
That night, it was very difficult for T.J. and Rendar to both sleep in the same room without feeling incredibly uncomfortable. The next morning, Rendar was the first up. The first thing he did was take a shower, a long warm shower that felt good after all the tension he had been feeling for so long.
T.J. awoke with a groan around the same time that he left the bathroom, a red bathrobe covering his otherwise naked body.
Rendar glanced at her as she sat up. “Morn’,” he said shortly.
T.J. nodded her head in acknowledgement and swung her legs so they were hanging off the side of the bed.
“Did you have a nightmare last night?” he wondered as she stood up and stretched.
“Yeah, how’d you know?”
“You were talking in your sleep. More like moaning, actually.”
Her cheeks flushed, but he didn’t notice.
“What was it about?” he wondered.
“Why do you care?” she asked him. “We hate each other, remember?”
She sat down on the bed and tried to straighten up her hair. It was in tons of knots from a restless night.
He shrugged. “Fine, I’m trying to be nice, here. I mean, if we have to pretend to be married for God knows how long, we might as well make an effort to tolerate each other.”
“Sorry,” she apologized, sounding surprisingly sincere. “Okay, if you really want to know, I had a bad dream about the Sffon.”
He nodded, seemingly interested, and sat down on the bed beside her. “Go on,” he said. “What happened in it?”
She sighed and tried to remember the grisly details of the nightmare. “We were in a room. A cell, I think. I couldn’t tell; it was really dim in there.”
“We? As in you and me we?”
“Yeah. Anyway, a Sffon came into the cell and dragged us out of there.” She was beginning to shiver. The dream had been so incredibly vivid… “He, he took us to another room, a torture chamber.”
He looked at her. “And?”
“I’d, uh, rather not go on,” she said, downright shaking by now. “Let’s just say it got really bad.”
Rendar finally noticed her shivering and wrapped a blanket around her shoulders. “Just remember,” he said, “it was just a dream. Nothing to be scared about.”
“I know. But it was just so, so vivid, so detailed. It felt real.”
“I thought I heard you scream last night. I guess I was right. It must’ve been awful. But just calm down, and keep in mind that it was only a dream. It wasn’t real.”
T.J. looked up at him. “You know, for someone I hate, you’re a pretty nice guy when you wanna be.”
Render laughed. “Thank you.” He stood up, patted her shoulder, and said, “I’m gonna go eat breakfast before I pass out from starvation.”
She nodded. “I’ll be there in a minute. I have to record the nightmare in my dream diary.”
He raised an eyebrow. “You have a dream diary?”
“Yeah, I’ve kept track of my dreams since I was 12.”
He shrugged and left the room. She waited until she was positive that he was out of hearing range and then recorded the awful nightmare on the audio tape that all her current dreams were recorded on. She could never, ever tell him what had happened in the rest of that dream. Could never tell him what she had learned.
* * *
Jessica watched in astonishment as Jen and her man strolled into the bedroom and shut the door behind them. She almost gasped.
“Hello? Jessie? Are you still with us?” Mark asked as he waved a hand in front of her face.
“Mark, Lissy,” she said, “Jen’s guy just followed her into the bedroom and shut the door!”
Lissy’s mouth dropped wide open. “Come on, let’s go peek in!” she shrieked.
“Lissy, that is so immature,” Jess said. “Mark, can you get me some more punch?”
She handed him her cup, and he left.
“Come on, Lissy, let’s go!” she exclaimed.
They never made it to the door.
Jen and Steve had just sat down on the bed when a loud and annoying alarm rang out over every loudspeaker in the entire building.
“Damn!” Jen yelled. “Come on, we better go see what’s going on.”
They left the bedroom and walked into the main room just in time to see the almighty General Minhuk’s face appear on the communications screen in the room.
“Attention,” he said, and it was obvious that the signal was being broadcast all over the base and in every room. “Everyone to your stations. Earth is under attack by the Sffon!”
A general panic swept over the startled party guests, and everyone dashed out the door and headed for their battle stations. Since so many ships had been lost in the incident at Saturn, only about 100 ships were left undamaged. All able pilots scurried to their fighters and prepped for battle. Jess and Jen arrived at their two-seater fighter at almost the same time, and both scrambled up the ladder to warm up the engines.
Jessica sat down in her usual seat at navigation and quickly put on her headset.
“Quimby,” she said, “are you there?”
“Yes, Lieutenant,” he answered. “Prep for lift-off and head for the area directly above Philadelphia.”
Jen spun around from her seat as pilot, her headset obviously on also. “Philadelphia?” she asked Quimby incredulously. “Why the hell are they attacking there? Why not just destroy GaMi headquarters?”
Jess shrugged. “No idea. The engines are heated up, Jen. Pick us up.”
“They’re currently targeting the spaceport and surrounding buildings,” Quimby said.
The ships lifted off the ground smoothly and sped away towards Philadelphia.
“Jen,” Quimby said.
“Yeah, Jeff?” she replied.
“Since Commander Baer isn’t here, you guys are flying at number one. Lead your squadron into battle and watch it! These Sffons have Mibian Cruisers.”
“Uh-oh,” Jess said as she heard that. Mibian Cruisers were huge, bulky ships, but had weapons with so much destructive power that if they hit you once you blew up, even if you had your shields at full power.
It made it extremely difficult to attack them without getting blown into little bits. She was glad Mark didn’t have a ship, so he would be safe back at the base helping Abrigio think of strategies.
It didn’t take long to reach the air above Philadelphia. They arrived just in time to be nearly blinded as the spaceport went up in white flames. There were only four Cruisers, but they were doing a whole lot of damage. There were no fighters, but the Cruisers would be a big challenge even without the assistance of small one- or two-man fighters.
“Okay, people, let’s move,” Jen said into her headset.
It felt good to be in command for once, but also bad, because she knew that she would be responsible if anyone in her squadron died. She wondered how T.J. handled it so well.
“Lieutenant Edwards?” one of the pilots asked. “Do we have a strategy, or are we just flying blindly?”
Jen evaluated the situation and adjusted her microphone. “All pilots in my squadron, stand by. We need to review our strategy.”
“Yes, ma’am,” several voices answered almost at once.
“Um, Jen,” Jess said. “What exactly is our strategy?”
“I’m thinking. You have any ideas?”
Jess smiled as a thought came to her. “Yeah.”
“Okay, guys, this is Lieutenant McKinney. This is what we’re gonna do…”
She explained it slowly enough so everyone could understand but fast enough so it only took her about thirty seconds to inform everyone.
Jen looked at her in astonishment. “And all this time, I thought you were a ditz who couldn’t think unless her life depended on it.”
“My life does depend on it, Jen,” Jess said.
Jen nodded but didn’t answer her remark or think any more about it. “Everybody, GO!”
“I really hope this plan of yours works, Jess,” Jen said.
“If it doesn’t,” Jess said, “you and I won’t be around to worry about what to do next.”
And that was true. This little strategy was extremely risky. If they miscalculated by a tenth of a second, the entire squadron would go up in flames.
The rest of the fighters were staying a safe distance away from the Mibians, but were still firing torpedoes at them. The six ships in Jen and Jess’s squadron flew straight in between the two biggest ships.
“Get those calculations ready, Jess,” Jen said rather unsteadily.
The great thing about Mibian Cruisers, the only reason this plan could possibly work, was that their weapons took a few seconds to power up, and when they did, the place they were firing had to be locked. In other words, once an exact spot was targeted and the controller hit the firing button, that spot was exactly where the beam of energy would hit, no matter what. The weapons systems didn’t track ships.
The squadrons got right between the two and stopped. Jess monitored the power output on the Cruisers’ weapons systems.
“Almost,” she said to Jen. “Okay, NOW!”
“NOW!” Jen shrieked into the headset.
At Jen’s command, the ships shot straight up in the air in perfect formation, then all did a backward roll until they were flying in the opposite direction of the doomed Cruisers. The first Mibian ship’s laser lanced out and struck the second, almost at the same instant the second shot hit the first. Both of the huge ships blew up in a spectacular fireball that quickly engulfed the third.
Had the third ship been smaller and quicker like the GaMi fighters, it may have escaped, but it didn’t. Three of the four dreaded ships exploded. The fourth turned around and headed toward space in retreat.
Jen let out a huge sigh of pure relief and got up and hugged Jessica. They had done it.
But what would happen when the Sffon came back?
TO BE CONTINUED…!
Click here for Chapter 4.