Reemer brought his fighter to a stop
on the runway. Behind him, the Omega's launch bay hatch closed and
environmental controls restored air pressure throughout the landing
bay. He opened the cockpit to his fighter and looked over his shoulder
at his fallen friend.
Reemer reached over the seat and picked up the backpack in Comet's lap. He slung the pack over his shoulder and climbed down a metal ladder to the launch deck. He placed the pack on the ground and opened it. He took the small transport case from the pack and slowly walked away. A very unhealthy looking deck officer approached the Deputy-Captain.
"Welcome back Sir. We'll take care of your ship."
Reemer painfully looked back at his plane and then into his hands. The small case containing the one vial of antidote from the Galman flagship was a constant reminder of the mission that took his friend's life. Tears began to swell in his eyes but he held them back.
"Forget the plane, Sergeant. Make sure the man inside it is taken care of properly. If I hear he has been disrespected in any way, I'll make sure you never work in the Earth Defense Organization again."
Reemer never made eye contact with the other man as he made his way to the elevator.
After a shower and a small bite to eat, Reemer dejectedly wandered down the hall toward the elevator that would take him to the bridge. He had broken policy and should have reported directly to the Captain upon his arrival. But because of the death of Comet and the minuscule amount of antidote, he did not believe the Captain would make a big deal of it.
Reemer entered the elevator and was transported to the bridge. When the doors opened, the smell of burning rubber and the stench of death was overwhelming. He had to use all of his strength to keep himself from losing his lunch. He immediately noticed that Captain Taylor and Jordy were the only two men on the bridge. Jordy was still at the helm and Captain Taylor was in his command chair. Reemer approached the Captain and heard Jordy coughing in the background.
"Reemer, I am truly sorry about Comet. He was a good officer."
"Thank you Captain." Reemer answered solemnly.
"We kept your mission a secret," said Taylor. "We didn't want to give the crew false hope."
Reemer handed over the container containing the vaccine. Taylor opened the container and looked at the vial. He noticed the Galman symbol on the outside of the vial. It was unmistakable. It was the number three. There were only three shots of antidote; three shots of the life saving medicine.
An alarm went off at the radar station. Reemer walked over to where Pudi Abdul Fazi used to sit. Readouts appeared on the small computer screen followed by star maps and ship icons. The icons appeared to be getting closer to the Omega's position and they were coming from two different directions.
"Captain I have good news and bad news," Reemer reported. "The good news is that I am tracking a small Earth fleet. It appears to have originated from our Pluto base and is on an intercept course with the Omega. The bad news is that I am also tracking a Galman fleet on an intercept course with the Omega. Both fleet's ETA is approximately one day."
Taylor had many questions that were still unanswered and the latest news did not help the situation. Were the two fleets heading toward each other or were they heading toward the Omega? Had war between the two worlds been declared? Either way, the situation on the Omega was grim at best.
Nearly eighty percent of the crew were dead and reports indicated that the other twenty percent would be dead over the next forty-eight hours. The ship's warp engines had been knocked out making space travel very limited and the long range communications equipment had been destroyed. Many of the Omega's attack planes had been eliminated and the main guns had taken heavy damage. Even the ship's Takion Wave Cannons were useless.
"Jordy, set the automatic pilot for an intercept course with the Galman fleet," Taylor ordered. "I want full available engine power. Once that is complete, I would like to see the both of you over here right away."
Jordy worked at the controls and the Omega changed its course heading. After that was done Jordy and Reemer approached the Captain.
"Gentlemen, our primary goal is to be able to contact the Earth fleet as soon as possible but with our communications equipment down, that leaves us few options. The Earth needs to know what has happened to us and that the Galmans are on their way to Earth. But according to the latest radar information the Galmans will intercept us before the Earth fleet. I want you to each take a fighter and take the antidote back to the Earth fleet. We need to be able to replicate it in case the Galmans attack our planet. I will remain on the Omega and with what's left of the crew, I will fight the Galmans. But first, I am ordering you two to each take a shot of the antidote."
Reemer was outraged. He could not believe what he had just heard. He had admired his commanding officer for years and now he was being ordered to leave him behind as a delaying tactic.
"No way Captain!" Reemer said. "If you stay and fight the Galmans you are signing your own death warrant!"
Jordy agreed. "I am with Reemer on this one Captain. We won't take this antidote unless you do!"
"You two need to understand something. I do not want the antidote wasted on me! If war breaks out with the Galman Empire we need to be prepared. We need to have every defense at our disposal and that includes getting this antidote back to Earth."
"Why us Captain?" Jordy asked. "Why not two other crewmen?"
"You are the healthiest people on board," Taylor answered. "I am not sure if it is just luck or the fact that we were pretty far from the initial spread of the disease but whichever the case, you are our only chance."
Captain Taylor got up from his chair, picked up the vial of antidote and walked over to an emergency medical closet. He opened it and removed two syringes and then walked back to his two officers. He placed one syringe on his work station and took the other and pushed the needle into the top of the vial. The needle passed through a translucent membrane and into the antidote liquid. With a draw back of his hand, the antidote filled the syringe. Taylor withdrew the syringe from the vial and walked over to his first officer.
Reemer rolled up the sleeve of his uniform and made a fist. He put his arm across the work station and stared directly into the Captain's eyes. It was a look of anger and sorrow. Taylor picked up Reemer's arm and inserted the needle into a vein. As Taylor slowly pushed the syringe and the liquid emptied into the Deputy Captain's arm, Reemer began to shake violently. Approximately thirty seconds later he started to settle down.
After waiting a few moments to see if Reemer would be okay, Taylor followed the same procedure on the Omega's Chief Navigator. Jordy also shook violently at first but after a moment he too began to calm down.
"Now I want you two to try and get a decent night's sleep. I want you take off at oh eight hundred hours tomorrow. Fly fast and above all else, get the antidote and our message to the Earth fleet as quickly as possible."
Tears began to swell in the boys' eyes. They had been given a gift of life but they weren't feeling all that lucky. They felt like they had let the rest of their crew down.
Reemer saluted his Captain but Taylor grabbed him and gave him a warm but strong hug in return. The embrace made Reemer feel worse and he began to cry. The tears ran down his cheeks like warm summer rain.
The Captain released Reemer and then embraced Jordy. Jordy also began to cry. After a brief moment the Captain released Jordy and the older man handed the vial of antidote to him and then took two steps back.
"Remember, make your families and your planet Earth proud of you."
Reemer tugged on Jordy's shirt and the two men walked to the elevator. The bridge's elevator door slid open and they stepped through the opening.
"Give 'em a good fight Captain." Reemer said as the doors slammed shut.
As the boys approached their living quarters they noticed that the hallways were all dark. The lights had been turned off to reserve energy. Off in the distance they heard coughing and sneezing and the sounds echoed off the metal walls. They passed a dead crew member in the hall. The young man, no older than twenty, was face down. His head rested in a puddle of green phlegm.
Further down the hallway, they came to an observation deck. The room's lights were out but Jordy saw a mass sitting in the far corner of the room. The shadows on the walls did not appear right so Jordy decided to step inside to check it out. He activated the lights and was startled to find a crewman missing his entire face. His laser gun was still smoldering in his hand. The shadows on the walls were the remains of the man's head.
Reemer turned off the lights and both men left the room. They finally reached their quarters without incident or another gruesome discovery but they both had a very hard time falling asleep. If only they had an antidote for the hurt and the guilt that inhabited their souls.