And we’re back for another insane and illogical installment of…
When we last left our heroes (in chapter one, chapter two, and the somehow-worse-than-both-previous-chapters-combined chapter three), T.J. and Rendar were on a secret mission that involved kissing awkwardly for A Totally Plausible Reason; Jen had just met a gorgeous, heroic, and trusted-completely-by-everyone sergeant named Steve; and in a thrilling science fictiony climax, there was a mighty space battle that concluded when the Sffon Cruisers were tricked into destroying themselves via Three Stooges Pie Fight logic.
In this chapter: T.J. and Rendar are attacked by the slowest moving fighter in the history of space warfare, Jessica receives a medal for her tactical genius, and we at last learn the identity of the Sffon spy. (Hint: It’s the guy smiling evilly at the camera when bad news arrives.)
Read on for the next ridiculous chapter of Fighting For the Galaxy…!
Fighting For the Galaxy
by (13-year-old) T.J. Baer
T.J. and Rendar had a surprisingly pleasant breakfast, not talking much, but the conversation they did have was nice.
“Did Captain Abrigio tell you what information we’re trying to get out of this Hitta guy?” T.J. asked after breakfast while they sat on the couch, once again not too close.
“Yeah, he said something about Hitta knowing which person in GaMi is a spy for the Sffon.”
“You still think it’s me, don’t you?” she asked with a smile.
She stared at him for a moment. “Really? Why not?”
Rendar shrugged, violet eyes glancing at her. “I guess living with you for a day and a half changed my mind. You just don’t seem like the type to be a spy.”
Besides, he added to himself silently, no spy would be shaking scared after a nightmare about the Sffon.
“All right,” she said. “So I guess I have no reason to hate you now.”
“Yeah,” he said. “Me neither.”
“At least if we can tolerate each other, maybe it won’t be so hard to pretend to be married,” she said.
He nodded, gazed at her, and found her also looking at him. “Speaking of that, I think now would be a good time to practice, don’t you think?”
She returned the nod and realized that this time, their kissing practice would be less pretend.
* * *
General Minhuk let out a sigh of relief. “Thank God,” he said as he, Mark, and Steve sat at a table in the war room. Mark was a commander like T.J., so he had access to the war room. He was a very trusted member of GaMi. Only Steve was more trusted, mainly because he was a sergeant and a huge war hero.
[A brief interlude:
Dearest readers, please note that Steve is a hero, and is trusted. So trusted, in fact, that his trusted-ness has been mentioned at least once every time he’s graced this story with his (heroic, glorious, trusted) presence.
As the author has gone to such pains to point out how trusted he is, we can assume with 100% certainty that it would be ridiculous for him to turn out to be the spy. Utterly, completely, ridiculously ridiculous. So, if you’re at all wondering whether or not he’s the spy, the answer is that of course he is not. And you’re ridiculous for even asking.
Okay, back to the story.]
Captain Abrigio soon joined them.
“I have the damage reports, General Minhuk,” Abrigio said. “In Philadelphia, the spaceport, hospital, and several apartment houses were totally destroyed, no survivors.”
“Number of deaths?” Steve wondered.
“568 total bodies recovered so far, but it will be impossible to retrieve them all; some were torn to shreds in the explosions,” Abrigio replied.
He looked annoyed at having to answer to a sergeant.
“It could have been a lot worse, but it wasn’t, thanks to the ingenuity of those fighters,” Minhuk said. “Who exactly thought up the idea to have the Cruisers destroy themselves?”
“Lieutenant McKinney, sir,” Abrigio answered.
Mark started. “Jessica? My Jessie saved the world?” He grinned. “Cool.”
* * *
Rendar kissed her, softly at first, but with increasing passion. They kissed long and hard, holding the embrace for as long as possible.
His hair felt soft and silky beneath her fingertips, feathery almost. They released each other in perfect synchronization, and T.J. opened her eyes to gaze into those deep violet eyes.
It wouldn’t be as hard as they had first expected to pretend to be married. Or to pretend to love each other.
They kept one another company until lunch, and right after they ate, T.J. left to take her shower. While she showered, Rendar cleaned up the bedroom and made the beds.
He truly hadn’t meant to find it, but it fell out of the pillowcase while he was folding it. And if he had even suspected as to what it was, he never would’ve turned it on and listened to it.
“It’s her dream diary!” he remarked to himself softly as T.J.’s voice echoed out of the speakers. He turned it down and listened.
“October 31st, 2007,” her voice said.
“That’s today’s date,” he realized. This must be the frightening dream she had told him about earlier!
“I had a very scary nightmare last night,” T.J.’s voice continued. “It was so vivid that I’m positive it was another fore-dream.”
What’s a fore-dream? he asked himself silently.
“Anyway, it has me really scared. It began with Rendar and I being trapped in a cell. The cell was dark, but there was enough light so I could see everything, if only dimly. That’s mainly what I told Rendar when he asked me about it, but I just couldn’t tell him the rest. It’s hard even to repeat it just to record it, but I’ll try.
“Rendar was sitting beside me on the floor of the cell; it was cement and very cold. I was very scared in the dream, I know that. Rendar had his arm around my shoulder and was trying to be comforting, but he was just as scared as I was. Then a Sffonian man opened the door. I guess we were in some sort of Sffon jail or something. He didn’t say anything, just motioned for two Sffon guards to escort Rendar and me down the hall.
“We ended up in a torture room. Some of the equipment was enough to make my blood run cold. He strapped Rendar to a table and started to—” She paused, the words coming out with obvious difficulty. “—torture him. Oh, God, it was awful. I’m positive I screamed a few times. Rendar told me this morning that he heard me talking in my sleep. I really hope he didn’t understand any of it, but he probably wouldn’t believe it if he did. Maybe that’s for the better since I now know the name of the spy. Whenever this unavoidable incident occurs, I’m going to do things differently and hope that they’ll kill me instead of Rendar. And I know now who the spy in GaMi is, but I know I can never tell Rendar until I have more proof. I can’t even tell this tape recorder.”
“Who’s the spy?” Rendar screamed softly at the machine.
“Are you enjoying yourself?” T.J. asked from the doorway of the bathroom.
Rendar jumped at the sound of her voice, then turned slowly around to face her. She was leaning her back against the doorway, her dark hair hanging wet over her shoulders.
“You know of course that you weren’t supposed to hear any of that,” she said. “But I guess that doesn’t matter now since you probably think I’m insane, right?”
He stood up from where he had been sitting on the carpet. “No. I don’t think you’re insane. But how do you know that your dream will come true?”
She sighed, walked over, and took the tape recorder from him. “No one else knows this, but there’s this one type of dream I have called a fore-dream. You know, like foreknowledge of something? Anyway, this was one of them, as you heard on the tape.”
“But who’s the spy?”
“I can’t tell you.”
He grabbed her by the shoulders. “But you have to! If you tell me now, maybe we can avoid that cell thing because we won’t need to go to Maridia.”
She shook her head sadly. “No, Rendar, it doesn’t matter. What happened in my dream will happen eventually, no matter how we try to avoid it.”
“But you said on the tape that you were gonna try to change the way things came out,” he reminded her.
“Yeah, but that’s only because I know how things will come out if I don’t do what they ask me.”
“What did they ask you to do?”
“Nothing. Look, I don’t want to talk about it. Just leave so I can get dressed and think.”
“Please, T.J.,” he begged her. “You said there was no way to avoid being at that place, so why not just tell me who the spy is now?”
“Because,” she said, “by telling you, I make you a target. Don’t you understand? If you don’t know anything, you can’t tell them anything.”
“But you said the spy is there with us in that cell. I know that now, so when I see him there, I’ll know he’s the spy. I’ll find out eventually, so why not tell me now? Please, T.J. You know I can take care of myself.”
She looked at him and considered.
* * *
Jessica received a medal for her quick thinking and bravery, as did the other pilots of the other fighters that had risked themselves to destroy the Mibian Cruisers. She wore it proudly at the victory celebration in the Main Hall of the base, and everyone laughed and talked and celebrated.
Jess and Jen sat at a table with Lissy and Mark, Mark going on and on about how he was so proud of Jess.
Jessica, glad to be the center of attention, listened to him ramble on for twenty minutes before Jen finally told Mark to shut up. He obeyed, apparently not wanting to argue with anybody on this happy occasion.
[“Hundreds of people died, both today AND yesterday! YAYYYY!”]
Mark stood up in the middle of the crowded room.
“Excuse me, everyone, I would like to make a toast,” he said loudly. He raised his glass up in the air. “To Jessica McKinney and all the pilots of the squadron that saved our butts!” he said. Believe it or not, everyone actually toasted to that. Jessica, feeling quite embarrassed to find everyone looking at her, blushed but was secretly pleased.
* * *
“Okay,” T.J. said finally. “I’ll tell you the name of the spy, since you’ll probably find out eventually anyway.”
Rendar sighed in relief. “Thank you.”
“This may shock you,” she said.
“But the spy is someone at GaMi no one would ever suspect.”
“Someone so trusted, so beloved, that no one would ever believe he was the spy without lots of proof.”
“The spy is…”
“SERGEANT STEVEN PHELPS.”
“Him?” Rendar said. “Really?”
“Yeah,” T.J. said. “Well, now you know.”
“Steve Phelps is the spy,” Rendar said as he sat down on the bed. “Wow. He’s got to be the most heroic man in GaMi. And the most well-trusted. It all fits.”
She frowned. “What do you mean?”
“One night a few weeks ago at about three AM, I was having trouble sleeping, so I decided to go walk around and try to tire myself out. When I passed the Main Office on the 10th floor, I saw somebody in there. I was curious, ‘cause usually they shut down at one, but sure enough, somebody was in there. It was Steve Phelps. He was screwing around with the main computer in there, printing out something. I didn’t think much of it at the time because I just figured he was allowed to be doing whatever he was doing, but I guess not.”
T.J. sat down beside him, tape recorder in hand. “So, what now?”
“We have to go back and reveal him as the traitor,” he told her.
“No one’s gonna believe us! What do we say? ‘Oh, yeah, I had this dream, and in it Steven Phelps, the most trusted and honored man in GaMi, was a spy for the Sffon?’ I doubt if that will work. And plus, if we say that, then that will only alert Phelps to the fact that we know.”
“Maybe we can say that Hitta told us,” Rendar suggested.
She shook her head. “No. We have a contact on Maridia, remember? We have to actually go there, or no one will believe our story.”
“Okay, so we’ll go to Maridia and find Hitta, and if he says that Steven Phelps is the traitor, then we’ll go back and tell Captain Abrigio and General Minhuk.”
She sighed. “That’s gonna take awhile.”
“Yeah, I know. But maybe—”
He was cut off by the ship lurching terribly to one side. T.J. and Rendar exchanged glances, then both dashed out to the cockpit to see what had happened. They sat down in their seats and fastened their safety belts just in case.
“What happened?” Rendar wondered.
“Apparently Pacific got thrown out of lightspeed for some reason,” T.J. answered, typing furiously on the keyboard.
Rendar checked all the systems. “Everything is fine. I don’t know why the lightspeed engine just suddenly quit working.”
“Wait a second,” she said. “Look at the screen!”
He stared at it. “Oh, great.” There was a ship, obviously Sffon, heading straight towards them. Its lasers were blazing, but it hadn’t hit them yet.
“It must’ve tracked us through lightspeed.”
“Can they do that?”
“I don’t know, it’s either that or just plain bad luck. Maybe the Sffon developed some system that can track a ship through lightspeed and shoot it out of it.”
“Uh, no time to chat, Rendar, we have a Sffonian fighter heading straight towards us and if we don’t move soon or fire, then we’re gonna be in worse trouble than we already are!”
“Fire on him – I’ll worry about the rest.”
She rested her hand on the firing button and waiting patiently for the ship to get directly in the middle of the firing target.
“Come on, come on. Rendar, move us up a few degrees.” He did so. “Perfect!” T.J. fired continuously and, to her relief, the other ship exploded.
Rendar let out a sigh of relief. “Any damage?”
T.J. glanced at her screen, then looked again. “Oh, no,” she said.
“That fighter only hit us once, but it hit the lightspeed engine. It’s gonna take at least a full day to repair it.”
He stood up. “Then we’d best get to work now.”
After two full days of work, they managed to repair the engine and get back on course.
* * *
“Captain Abrigio! Captain Abrigio!” The messenger screamed down the hallway and ran to catch up to Abrigio, Steve, and Minhuk.
“What is it?” Abrigio asked the boy, once again clearly annoyed.
The messenger boy was out of breath, but he squeezed out the horrible news. “Maridia was just overrun by the Sffon, and all our people on planet were killed!”
“Oh, my God,” Abrigio said. “This is terrible. No survivors among our people?”
The boy shook his head. “No. None at all. Shall I notify the family and friends of the officers killed?”
Minhuk nodded. “Yes. And give me a list of the people we had on Maridia when you’re finished.”
“Yes, sir,” the boy said. “But I have the list right here if you’d like to see it.”
“I have some people on Maridia,” Abrigio said. “Baer and Teetan. They were scheduled to be on the planet yesterday, so they must’ve been there when the Sffon attacked.”
None of them noticed the evil smile that crept onto Steven’s lips as they walked down the hallway. Now his secret would be safe. Forever.
TO BE CONTINUED…!
Click here for Chapter 5.