Chloe looked out the port window at the passing stars and planets. It appeared the same as the night sky, but for Chloe the view was always different from a spaceship.
The spaceship in which she was traveling was in orbit around the planet that had been attacked. Although the ship was small, it was packed with enough armor and weaponry to take on a ship ten times its size. A small meteor impacted the hull, but it exploded on the tough metal alloy without leaving a dent.
Chloe turned to Hiya Tom who was cursing in front of a control station. He was staring at the large screen at the front of the cockpit which was covered in nothing but static. Blake And Shake closely monitored a sensor display while Jack Attack was tangled in a mess of wires and power cells.
"Come on guys!" yelled a frustrated Tom. "Why can't we make contact with Earth?"
"We're well within 35 light years," said Blake. "It must be the nebula blocking our transmission."
"Try again," said Jack as he connected two power cables. "That should boost the signal."
Chloe watched as an object took shape out of the display of static. As the image because undistorted, she saw someone about the same age as her other colleagues. He was very tall, perhaps six and a half feet, and extremely skinny. His head was covered with long, straight, brown hair that came down to his shoulders. Something unusual Chloe noticed was that one of his arms was wrapped around a metal pole at least five times as though his bones were made of rubber.
"Fred the Head," said Blake greeting the man on the screen. "How are things going?"
"Please," replied Fred with a hint of mild irritation, "don't call me that."
"Sorry we couldn't talk to you sooner," said Jack. "We've been having trouble with the communicator."
"So what's the report this time, Major?" Fred asked Tom. "Do you know what caused the destruction?"
"Not quite yet, Admiral," replied Tom. "But we're a lot closer to finding out than we were last time. Look who I ran into."
Fred looked at the young woman beside Tom. At first he didn't recognize her, but then his face lit up.
"Chloe," he said, "how pleasant to see you again."
"Hi Fred," replied Chloe.
"Chloe's ability was very useful when interrogating someone's henchman," explained Tom.
"What did you find out?"
"Not as much as I'd hope for. He worked for someone called the 'Emancipator'. More importantly, the attackers are now positioned on the planet Mars."
"Mars?" gasped Fred. "But that's…"
"…Right next to Earth," said Jack. "We know."
Fred sat back in his chair and thought about the new situation for a moment. There was only one decision he could make.
"Tom, take your ship to Mars right away," said the Admiral. "Whatever it is out there needs to be stopped before it can reach Earth."
"Admiral," said Tom, "it's not that I wish to challenge your authority, but should we inform the Republic of Earth of the situation. Their defenses are much stronger than the Divine Security Force."
"The government doesn't trust us anymore," said Fred. "Not after Mindy's stunt."
"What was she thinking?" asked Jack, remembering the incident.
"I still think we should put our efforts towards freeing her from jail," said Blake.
"I'm sorry," said Fred, "but stopping the recent attacks on our cities must take priority."
Blake nodded in agreement while Jack walked over to the nearest control station to set a new course.
"We will proceed to Mars as ordered," Tom told Fred.
"Very good," said the Admiral. "Good luck on your mission."
The screen went blank as the transmission ended. Jack finished setting in the new course which took them around the nebula and then straight to Mars.
"Prepare to engage the hyperdrive," said Jack.
"Let's get to Mars quickly," said Tom. "Activate it now."
Chloe leaned against the wall as the spaceship left orbit and lurched to the speed of 2 light years per hour. The image of the planet disappeared almost instantly as they sped away.
. . .
Chloe rolled around on here bed trying to get into a comfortable position. It was no use. Tom had told them that the trip would be at least thirteen hours and they should all try to get some rest, but Chloe doubted that she could follow his suggestion.
The sleeping areas they had were very small, perhaps seven by seven feet, and the beds were very uncomfortable, but that wasn't what was keeping Chloe up. The recent events were more than enough to keep anyone's mind active, even after a tiring day of work. Chloe looked out the window at the stars and nebulae. Usually the view helped her get to sleep, but at the moment, it only made her wonder about what was out there and what could strike Earth if they weren't quick enough.
If she wasn't going to get any sleep, then she may as well not try. Chloe put her feet down on the cold metal floor of the spaceship and opened her door. She squinted as her eyes adjusted to the bright light of the corridor before walking down to the ship's conference room.
Having given Chloe a short tour of the ship before they left, Jack had explained to her all about the conference room. Being a small ship, their spacecraft had no lounge or anywhere else for passengers to relax. To solve this problem, Tom decided that the conference room could be used for leisure or socialization, though they often had little time for such things. The conference room was near the front of the ship, in-between the cockpit and the sleeping areas.
As Chloe walked into the room, she noticed that she wasn't the only one who couldn't get any sleep. Jack Attack and Blake And Shake were both sitting down and facing the stars. Blake had a small, hand-held computer, which he seemed to be using to make calculations, but Jack was just staring out into space with a strange uneasiness.
"Hi guys," said Chloe.
Blake looked up from his work. Noticing Chloe, he smiled and waved to her and then returned to his calculations. Jack just sat there as though he were completely unaffected by his surroundings.
Both curious and worried at the same time, Chloe walked over to Jack and looked him right in the eyes. At first he continued to stare past her at the stars, but soon he finally sighed and turned to face her.
"I'm sorry," he said. "It's not your fault, but ever since I met you down at the planet I haven't been able to stop thinking about what happened two years ago."
"I didn't mean to…"
"It's not your fault," said Jack. "It's mine. I shouldn't have done what I did. I can remember everything that happened clearly. What started out as a simple flying routine turned into sheer disaster."
There was an awkward silence. Chloe felt as though Jack was waiting for her to say something, but she couldn't think of anything that would make her friend feel better.
"I flew the ship with the hyperwave sensors, as usual," Jack finally continued. "I was taught that the ship with the best sensors always has to be the last one to engage the hyperdrive in the event of a catastrophe. I always thought it was a dumb rule, but I learned otherwise that day. I remember that we were all there, just testing a new flight pattern while in orbit of Jupiter. Suddenly, my sensors picked up at incoming meteor storm with rocks the size of buildings. I should have followed my guidelines, but instead I activated my hyperdrive immediately. I, along with a few or our other colleagues, jumped to safety, but you, Blake, and Flynn all had trouble with your hyperdrives. If I had stayed, I could have used my sensors to find a safe route for you, but instead I left you to fend for yourselves."
"You wouldn't have been any help to us if your ship had been destroyed," said Chloe."
"I would have survived," said Jack. "We all would have survived. You and Blake were fortunate enough to navigate your way out of the storm without sensors, But Flynn…"
"I know," said Chloe. "It wasn't your fault."
"It was," said Jack. "He would never have been hit by that asteroid."
"What happened to you afterwards?"
"I was expelled from the academy," said Jack. "I lost contact with my friends and had to search around for menial tasks to make enough money for food. I would still be right now if Fred hadn't invited me to join the Divine Security Force, where I was reunited with many of my old colleagues."
"So it all worked out in the end."
"Not for Flynn," said Jack. "I'd give anything to change what I did that day."
Chloe paused for minute, not knowing what to say. Suddenly, her face lit up and she looked at Jack.
"Jack," she said. "I think I feel a distant presence."
"Whose presence is it?"
"It's Flynn!" shouted Chloe. "He must still be alive!"
"Very funny," said Jack with angry sarcasm.
"Jack!" said Chloe. "I'm serious! I really feel Flynn's presence."
"It's nice of you to care about how I feel," said Jack. "But I made a mistake so I have to deal with it. It's not fair for me to escape my guilt by denying the truth."
Annoyed, Chloe walked over to the other side of the room where Blake was sitting.
"Hello Chloe," said Blake without looking up from his calculations.
"Did you hear our conversation?" asked Chloe.
"Some of it."
"What did you hear?"
"Stuff about the incident two years ago and about you sensing the presence of Flynn."
"About me sensing Flynn," said Chloe, "I didn't just say that to make him feel better. I really do have a powerful feeling that Flynn is out there."
Blake looked up from his computer.
"You're not joking, are you?"
"No, I'm serious."
"There's no way Flynn could have survived," said Blake. "His spaceship exploded in a huge ball of fire. I saw it with my own eyes."
"So did I," said Chloe. "But I still know that he's alive. Jack won't believe me."
There was a moment of silence as Blake accepted the new information. He stood up and put his computer down on the table.
"Where is Flynn now?" he asked.
"I think he's somewhere at the Jupiter space station," said Chloe.
"I'll inform Tom that I'll want to make a stop at Jupiter before proceeding to Mars," said Blake. "I was never sure where Flynn was as far as special powers go, but he may be some help to us."
"Even if he doesn't have a special power," said Chloe, "you should find him anyway. Even if he can't help us stop the Emancipator, Jack will be much more help to us knowing that his friend is alive."