“I wish you didn’t have to go,” Indy murmured, sliding her arms around his waist and burying her face against his chest. She listened to the quiet thudding of his heart as Mike folded his arms around her, inhaling deeply the scent of her hair. The wind keened outside the covered hangar. The transport stood about twenty meters away, on the rain-sodden tarmac. It was due to depart within the next twenty minutes, and he had to be aboard. If he wasn’t aboard, he’d never make the military transport dispatched to Wayfarer to take him and other personnel out of the sector, back to their postings.
“I’m sorry. We can’t come along on this one, Carlos.”
Carlos raised an eyebrow; Robert had the grace to look a bit shame-faced, though he wondered if the holonet would faithfully transmit his expression.
“You said you would, a week ago,” Carlos said. “What changed?”
“You on scrambler?”
“Remember who you’re talking to. I’m always on scrambler.”
Howie took a moment to ponder Indy’s words. Essentially, he was being offered a second chance. The opportunity to rebuild the life that he’d left behind all those years ago. On the other hand, he was going to have to fight a new war against a new enemy. The decision wasn’t going to be one he was going to make lightly.
He’d heard about the Vong, of course, but what he did know was limited mostly to what he’d caught on the holonet. News reports, hastily thrown together docuholos and the odd word of mouth encounter overheard from random barflies (which offered little more than wild rumours as to how they lived and what they did to the worlds they invaded). Whatever was true and what was false, Howie knew that they posed a serious threat to the New Republic.
“I’m not sure how deep you were, but there’s a war on, and for once it’s not about the Remnant. I put out a call to get everyone I could back here, but I’ll be damned if I got as many as I’d hoped. A few are tied up, can’t leave their current postings for reassignment. Few I couldn’t find—I’ve got Tag on that, now, thank the Force she’s back—and then a few are dead. You were in the latter category.” She stood up and began to pace.
The hell were they thinking? How low can we stoop? She exhaled quietly through her teeth, pinching the bridge of her nose. “I need experienced commanders. I’ve got children. When we signed the peace with the Remnant…most of the veterans retired. I didn’t blame them—I still don’t. But they were replaced by a generation that’s half trained and wholly unready for what we’re looking at.” She managed to smile. “Hell, I’m not even sure that I’m ready for what we’re looking at, to be honest. But it says a lot that one of my best commanders is someone I chased out from under my desk when he was five.” She stopped pacing, stared out the window for a long moment, then looked back to him. “What do you say, Major? Want to get back in the saddle, or do you just want to be some sort of grunt on the front lines, in the trenches—wherever they end up being?”