So this was my rather rushed entry for the 109th story competition.
Morveren tightly curled her fingers around the reassuringly tight restraints of her seat belt as the familiar hum of the engines echoed around the dropship. She'd travelled in the military crafts hundreds of times by now, but she never got over the sickly swoop in her stomach as they left the planet's surface, or the sickening fear that any moment something would go wrong and they'd all be hurled crashing down, and die in a fiery explosion. Irrational, probably. But the thoughts wouldn't leave her alone. It was odd, considering that on the several occasions she'd been in a storm at sea she'd managed to remain calm, but one unexpected jolt from the spacecraft caused cold sweat to trickle down the back of her neck.
Across the cabin, she saw Kauffman raise his eyebrows at her. She'd learnt to hide her fear by now; it wouldn't do to let fresher recruits see her shaking or bawling her eyes out. But she could tell Kauffman was remembering their first deployment, where she'd thrown up on the dropship on the way to planet, and her father had made her hold his hand for the rest of the journey. He gave her a wink, and she scowled back, causing him to chuckle.
She closed her eyes, leaning her head back against the seat. The ship began to shudder as they passed through the atmosphere, but she managed to keep her face smooth, the only sign that her belly was turning flips a slight whitening of her knuckles. As they entered the void of space, the shudders died down, and the engine shifted to a different tone.
"109th Light, this is your pilot speaking," a voice said over the tannoy. "We will shortly be docking. Please prepare yourself to disembark. Please do not remove your seatbelts until the ship has safely docked. Thank you."
"What do you think the canteen will be serving?" Anya said from her left, and Morv opened her eyes, turning to look at her friend.
"I don't know, but I hope it's good," she replied, flashing her a grin. "I'm bloody starving!"
"Morveren, you are always hungry," Anya replied with a wry smile.
"It's almost like being Sergeant require a lot of energy, isn't it?"
The ship came to a shuddering halt, making them all jolt in their seats. "109th Light, we have safely docked aboard the TSS Ivanhoe. Thank you for flying with us today."
Morveren unbuckled her harness, and got to her feet. She stretched, raising her arms up over her head and cracking her back.
"I'm still not convinced that's healthy," Anya commented, raising an eyebrow.
"Anya, you know for a fact my back is fucked; don't you spend at least twenty minutes each deployment trying to fix it?"
"Maybe if you didn't end up on it so much it wouldn't be a problem."
Morveren waggled her eyebrows at the Rossi, and she face palmed.
"You know what I mean, Morv! Remember; you're a medic, not a trooper!"
The door opened, and the troops began to file out. "Battle medic! And I don't know. I think I could take a trooper at this point. Look at these guns!" Morveren flexed, and Anya rolled her eyes.
"Yeah, yeah. Very impressive."
The girls laughed, and followed the rest of their regiment towards the canteen. It was chicken and roast veg, and the two happily joined Harry, Jeramiah and Lucia on a bench as the 109th began to chow down.
Morveren tried to follow the conversation, but she found her gaze inexorably drawn to the planet she could see through the large, reinforced windows to her left. Zennor gleamed in the darkness of space like a rare blue gemstone, it's oceans as beautiful as ever, even if it's land was still ravaged by war. For what felt like the hundredth time that day, Morveren wondered if she'd done the right thing. The war was over. Her planet was free. She could help rebuild it, find a way to clear the once crystal oceans of pollution, find ways to rebuild the graceful, soaring stone cities, replant the forests, rehome and save and feed the children damaged by the war in the same way she was. She should be back down there working in a refugee camp, not sailing away into space. She gripped her fork a little too tightly, glancing down at her plate where her food was waiting. How many Zennorite children were starving down below her?
A gentle hand touched her shoulder, and she jumped, a hand instinctively going to her dagger. But it was just Lucia, looking at her with calm eyes whilst Anya and Harry hotly debated something and Jeramiah facepalmed in the background.
"It's okay, Morveren." Lucia's smile was kind.
Morveren felt her face heat up slightly. "What do you mean?" she said, poking at a string bean.
"You can't save everyone. And you've got to stop trying to."
"I don't…I mean…I…" Morveren bit her lip.
"We're medics. Sometimes we feel like we're responsible for too much. Get out of your head, Morv. Just try to relax and do something for you instead of trying to save the world."
Morveren stabbed a potato with her fork. "You know, you really have this wise gentle Templar thing down, Lucia."
The woman laughed, and gave her shoulder a squeeze, before releasing her and turning back to her food.
They'd all changed a lot over the last four years, Morveren reflected as she munched on the crispy roast potato. Lucia had been so quiet when she first arrived, and now she was a Templar of Mercy; still as gentle, still as kind, but with a steely resolution underneath that hadn't originally been there. There was Anya, hot headed, opinionated, but tempered slightly by the things she'd experienced. Jeramiah; originally a little stuffy, a little snarky, but that was simply hiding the fact that the man held himself responsible for each loss, each death. He had been through hell, and still come out the other side. Harry, one of their newer members, quick-witted, sarcastic, but a ferocious and loyal fighter.
She leant back in her chair, her eyes travelling over the regiment which had become her family. She'd been through four Colonels, but she still wasn't sure about Graves and where he stood. He was a good commander, but he seemed to play his cards close to his chest. One to watch and find out about maybe. You could never be too careful. Then there was Imperatriss, or whatever she wanted to call herself. Their Captain. The woman definitely made the hair on the back of her neck stand up. She lied as easily as breathing, transforming herself from one person to another, and Morveren didn't like being lied too.
Tensoon sat over with the rest of the engineers, calm and collected. Senka was next to him, rolling her eyes at something, and Spoon was jabbing a finger in the air as they made a point. 62 and 404 seemed to be discussing something wibbly, with Dirk interjecting now and then. 62 looked up, feeling her eyes on him and gave her a wry smile, which she returned. ACE sat next to them, poking at his food with his left hand, canon awkwardly propped up on the table.
She realised that she herself was being observed, and turned her head to find Dmitri and Kauffman watching her, from where they sat with Gerren.
She sent them a small smile, and raised her glass slightly.
Kauffman raised his back, and she took her sip of her drink.
Four years down.
She wondered what came next.
And also hoped that pudding was good.