|Chapter Eight: Point of No Return|
|Paige woke slowly, swimming toward consciousness through a haze. She opened her eyes and turned her head slightly. Jerund was standing beside her bed. He stroked her hair gently. “Little one…” He stopped her as she tried to speak. “You’re not supposed to be awake yet…You’re still healing. You’ve only been asleep a few hours. Everyone is fine, alright? Rest now….rest.” He continued to stroke her hair as she drifted back off to sleep.
Paige woke suddenly, violently, thrust into wakefulness to find herself standing alone in the field outside the base. She looked around wondering how she had come to be there. Then she heard it, the low howling of the missile siren. She hurried toward the base, watching as Jester and Jerund ran from barrack to barrack banging on doors. “Wake up, wake up! We’ve got to evacuate! Head for the large hanger!” Paige ran with the crowd, not question how she had arrived where she was, only following orders. She seemed to lag behind everyone, unable to keep up however hard she tried. She reached the hanger, watching the last few stragglers pour into a giant ship. The door closed and the ship quickly lifted off, leaving her standing in the hanger, looking up. She turned, watching the now visible missiles approach so close behind the fleeing ship. She watched them hit and saw the explosion coming toward her, and then there was nothing.
Paige woke, more slowly this time unable to get her bearings. Finally she saw that she was in a fighter, in space, a battle blazing nearby her. On the sidelines she watched, unable to participate. The battle came closer though and she knew she should move, to get away from the fighting but she was stuck, unable to move as the ships came closer to her venerable fighter. There was an intense flash of light, then nothing.
Paige woke and looked about. She was alone in space, drifting without a line. No ship was even visible. She studied the stars as she floated, contemplating their positions, trying to get her bearings, trying to make sense of herself. She felt the cold creeping in. The unbelievable cold of space. It crept up through her limbs until she was numb inside and out. She floated numbed and staring until finally, there was nothing.
Paige woke slowly, becoming aware of first the sensation of soft warmth and a soothing murmur around her. Then the sense of a light, somewhere above her. The sounds increased until they were audible to her sleepy ears. It was Jerund and Jester speaking. “She should be waking soon right?” Jester asked. There was a rustle as Jerund shifted about. “She shouldn’t really. These drugs should have put her pretty out of it. However I think she’s probably more aware than we think she is.” He leaned closer to her, his shadow blocking the light. “Paige…are you awake?” Paige mumbled, trying to tell them that she was, but her mouth refused to work. She frowned and forced her eyes partway open, trying to speak again. “O’course imawak…” She slurred. Jerund chuckled. “The medicine will wear off soon. Just rest until it does, alright little one?” Paige nodded, to frustrated to try to speak again, and drifted off into a doze again.
Paige woke. Something was poking her in her arm. It wasn’t a painful poke, just constant. She opened her eyes, realizing she didn’t feel the affects of the drugging anymore. She opened her eyes and looked toward the poking. Cien was asleep, his head resting on the edge of her bed as he snored softly. She swallowed gingerly, testing. Her throat was sore but no longer raw. She reached over, her muscles weak but only a little tender, and stroked his hair. He jumped, sitting up, then smiling down at her a bit sheepishly, the look of love in his eyes making her own eyes tear. “Hey beautiful…” he said softly. “Love…” She spoke in a horse whisper. He shushed her and leaned over kissing her lips softly. “I love you so much Paige…I though I’d lost you!” She squeezed his hand. “I’m not that easy to get rid of.” She said softly. Cien chuckled, his eyes tearing up just a bit. “I should hope you’re never easy to get rid of, my love.” Jerund peaked in, smiling at seeing her awake. “Ah little one. Good to see you awake finally. Throat still a bit sore? Muscles too?” Paige nodded. “It’ll pass soon. You’ve been asleep for three days now. I want you to stay in bed a few more days, to rest up. You’ve been through a lot.” I know.” Paige croaked with a slight chuckle that left her wincing. Jerund winced in sympathy. “Just rest.” He glanced at a chart, and then looked back at her. “I’ll be back by in a few hours to check on you.” With that he turned and walked out. Paige looked up at Cien and started to speak, but he shushed her. “It can wait love. Rest now. Please, for me.” Paige nodded; unable to resist the call to sleep her healing body was sending her any longer. She closed her eyes and slept.
Paige sat up in bed, eating her first real meal in well over a week. Cien sat beside her smiling and just watching. She looked over at him. “What is it love?” He shook his head. “Nothing really. Just thinking how beautiful you are.” Paige blushed. “I look horrible.” She disagreed. Cien shook his head. “You never look horrible to me my love.” Cien chuckled as she blushed deeper. Paige finished eating quickly to ease her embarrassment. Cien smiled broadly as she finished. “It’s good to see you eating. You finished now?” Paige nodded and he took the tray, leaving the room briefly. When he returned he was trailed by Peter, Jester, Tris, Christina and Jerund. All were grinning broadly. “Guys, what do you have up your sleeves?” Paige asked suspiciously. Jerund grinned and pushed a now shy Cien forward. Cien sat on the edge of her bed and took her hand gently. “We’re getting married. Right here, right now. I’ve already lost you once. I’m not taking anymore chances before I have you as my wife.” Paige went pale as he pressed a gold band into her hand. Christina plopped a flower wreath on her head and Paige burst into tears. Cien took her gently in his arms. “A few minutes love? Then tears?” Paige nodded, sniffing back her tears. Jerund stepped forward. “We seem to have plenty of witnesses.” He chuckled. “Lets begin. Cien Ranier, do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold, as long as you both shall live?” Cien nodded. “I do.” He slipped a band around her finger and Paige sniffed back more tears. Jerund turned to her, smiling broadly. “Paige Fardreamer, do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, as long as you both shall live?” Paige nodded. “I do.” She slipped the band around Cien’s finger and he squeezed her hand gently. Jerund continued with a nod. “Very well then, by the power vested in me as a general and the commanding officer of this unit, I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride.” Cien leaned over and gave her a long passionate kiss that left her breathless. Jerund chuckled as Cien finally pulled back and held out some papers. “Also, I have your discharge papers. You are officially released from this hospital.” This was too much and Paige burst into tears again. Cien didn’t hesitated though, and scooped her up, carrying her out of the hospital amid a flurry of chuckles and well wishes and Jester’s notice that he was off duty for the next forty eight hours. He carried her to a set of barracks and opened the door to a small apartment like room. He gently lay her on the bed, then, kicking off his boots he lay down beside her, studying her face with gentle scrutiny, stroking her hair until she finished crying her tears of joy. She lay beside him limply, smiling up at him, the love reflected in her golden eyes melting his heart. He leaned over and kissed her neck, then turned his head and nibbled her ear a bit. She giggled and pulled away. He propped himself up on his elbow and looked down at her. “How well do you feel love…We can wait if you wish…?” Paige shook her head firmly, stroking his smooth cheek, with a gentle hand. “I’m up to it love. I’m sure of it, and like you said, you’ve already almost lost me once…” He pulled her against him, kissing her fiercely, his mouth claiming hers. It was a long time before she was conscious of anything but him and his love for her.
Paige woke to a gentle caress. Her body was still twined with Cien’s after their long, passionate night together. He was running his fingers along the curve of her side, tracing it’s contours. His hand slid around to her back, and she arched, catlike. He smiled at her. “Morning love of my soul. How’re you feeling?” Paige shifted a bit with a sheepish smile. “A bit tender…but it’s a good pain.” Cien pulled her against him, his blue eyes dancing. “I can kiss it, make it better if you want…?” He trailed off suggestively. Paige laughed softly and kissed him, her stomach growling. “Actually, I’m hungry for other things at the moment my love.” Cien nodded, his eyes holding remembered pain. “I suppose you would be…” Paige shushed him with a gentle finger against his lips. “Shh love. It’s over and I’m here, home again with you.” Cien pulled her close against him and just held her for several long minutes. “Yes…yes you are love.” He sighed softly, finally releasing her. She gave him a slight smile and rose from the bed, dressing slowly. He watched her as she moved about getting ready from a comfortable spot in their bed, a slight smile playing about his lips. Paige turned to him, shaking her head and grabbing him by the wrist. “Come on love. You can’t just lay in bed all day.” Cien chuckled and allowed her to pull him to his feet. “Probably not love, but I could lay and watch you all day.” Paige grinned and blushed just a bit, throwing his boxers at him. “Oh you! Get dressed.” Cien dressed quickly as a knock sounded on the door. “Just a second!” He called, sighing a bit in annoyance at the intrusion in to what little of a honeymoon they got. Paige gave him a smile and he grinned back, knowing he was acting the grouch. As he zipped up his flight suit Paige walked to the door and opened it. She took a step back in surprise covering her mouth. Cien quickly walked to the side, unable to see around the opened door. Peter was standing there, smiling a bit, his arm around the shoulders of a blond girl who was also grinning. Paige launched herself at the girl, locking her in a tight hug. The two hugged tightly for a moment, both laughing and crying at the same time. “I thought you were dead…” Paige said softly, looking down at the girl. “I thought the same about you…Peter did too until he was assigned to you as a cell guard…” Paige sniffed and smiled slightly as Cien came to her side. Paige looked back at him. “Love…this is my sister, Angela.” Cien smiled and Paige squeezed Angela's hand. “Angela, this is my husband, Cien.” Angela smiled at Cien. “Nice, I get my sister back and a brother in law too.” Paige sniffed a bit, chuckling at her sister. Cien stroked her hair gently, smiling at both Peter and Angela. “We were just about to go get some breakfast, you guys want to come along?” Angela glanced up at Peter who looked unsure. “We don’t want to intrude on your honeymoon, or what you get of one in a war zone…” Cien nodded. “Yes, but I’m sure the women have a lot of catching up to do. Come on.” He took Peter by the arm and started pulling him along. Angela and Paige followed behind, laughing as they all walked off toward the mess hall.
Cien and Paige walked back to their room slowly. They had spent the whole day visiting with her sister and Peter. They had all had a few drinks by the end of the day and Cien knew Paige was tired. She stumbled over a rock and he supported her gently against him with a grin. “That smashed love?” She looked up at him indignantly. “I’m not smashed at all!” Cien laughed as they walked up to their small room in the barracks and quickly picked her up, depositing her safely on the stoop as he unlocked the door and let them in. “Really love?” He leaned over as the door shut behind him and kissed her neck lightly. “Paige smiled a bit sheepishly. “Well, maybe just a bit…but I didn’t drink as much as you!” Cien laughed outright. “No, you’re right. So I must be the smashed one then.” He unzipped his flight suit as he walked over to the bed and flopped down with a sigh. Paige flopped down beside him tickling his chest lightly with a grin. He grabbed her hand gently. “Hey, that tickles!” She grinned wider. “Oh really?” She rolled over on top of him, trying to pin him with her weight and tickled him. “Hey!” Cien exclaimed and rolled her over underneath him with a grin. He starting tickling her. “Hey! No fair!” Paige said playfully pouting just a bit. Cien leaned down and kisses her silencing any other protest she might have had. The kiss started playful and blossomed into something more quickly. Cien pulled back after a moment, smiling, his blue eyes deep pools as he gazed down at her. Paige stroked his cheek with a loving sigh and he leaned down to kiss here again and it was a long time before she was aware of anything else again.
Paige woke with a start to a pounding on her door. Cien murmured sleepily in protest and rolled over with a groan. Paige yawned, her sleep fuddled mind unwilling to come to wakefulness. The pounding came again, firmly, then the low haunting wail of the siren cut through her hazy mind, jolting her awake with a horrible realization. She sat up suddenly, shaking Cien. “We have to move! We have to go!” He sat up, looking about, hearing the siren. They both jumped out of bed, pulling on their discarded clothing and stamping into their boots. The pounding sounded on the door yet again just before Cien opened it. Jester and Jerund were running down the sidewalk in front of the barracks, pounding on doors. “Get up! Get up! Missiles are on their way in! We have to evacuate! Go to the large hanger! Move!” Paige started shaking slightly and Cien put his arm around her. “Are you alright, love?” His expression was worried. Paige shook her head, her eyes big. “This…this is a dream… a bad dream…” She stood shaking against him. Jerund ran over and looked at her, then at Cien. “Get her to the ship in the big hanger boy, get her calmed down…” Cien nodded and scooped her up, carrying her quickly to the hanger and following the throng of people up into the ship. He walked forward until he found the only quiet spot on the ship, the cockpit. He flipped the starting switches, knowing that it needed to be done, then Paige her in one of the chairs, moving around in front of her. She was still shaking slightly, her eyes unfocused and staring. “Paige…?” He said softly. She jumped, looking at him. “Love, you’ve got to pull yourself together, alright?” Paige nodded, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly. Cien kissed her forehead. “I’m going to go help the others.” He turned to go but Paige grabbed his arm. “Don’t leave the ship!” Cien nodded. “I won’t, I promise.” Paige let go and he walked out toward the back of the ship. Paige took another deep breath, looking around the cockpit. The ship was started but it needed to be ready to go soon. She went through the preflight check quickly, glad that the controls were similar enough to several planes that she had flown that she could understand them. Running boot steps sounded in the corridor behind her and she turned as Jester entered the cockpit. He nodded as he saw the ship was ready to leave. “Good, good…” He sat down in the pilots chair and strapped in, starting the lift off procedure slowly, calling back to Jerund on the in ship intercom system. “Close the doors, we have to leave now!” “They’re space locked.” Jerund replied. Jester tilted the nose of the ship skyward and I rocketed up toward space. “Space locked…?” Paige inquired softly. “We can’t stay here…Those missiles were nukes.” Paige nodded. “So where are we going?” Jester adjusted some instruments, his expression pained. “We have to fall back, to the space station…There’s more to this war then Jerund and I have been letting on…much more.” He stared out at the sky as it darkened. The soft clinking of boots on the deck sounded and Jerund followed by Cien, Peter and Tris entered the ships cockpit. “How do the instruments look?” Jerund asked, worried. Jester glanced at the radar. “We’re the biggest ship off the ground right now.” Paige looked back and forth between the two men. Cien and Peter seemed unfazed but she was confused. “What do you mean?” Jerund sighed. “You know that “project” I was always involved in on earth little one?” Paige nodded and he continued. “I was protecting earth from an outside threat we had noticed with long rage probes…They are a race that look human, The Kilan they call themselves. Hive minded, they are years ahead of Earth in space technology. They have capital ships, fighter, and patrol ships, all space use only. I’ve been developing the ships to combat them. But we don’t have enough. They infiltrated the United States government because it had the capabilities to build the ships we needed to combat their threat. They caused the war to keep us from uniting against them…” Paige looked out in space, sighing softly. “So now we have to leave…” Jerund nodded. “We’re not giving up…but we can’t fight them with pop guns. We have to regroup, reorganize, and when the time is right, we’ll hit them hard and take back earth.” Paige nodded and Cien came up behind her stroking her shoulders gently. “Come on love…You should rest. It’ll be several hours before we reach the space station.” Paige nodded and rose from her seat, allowing Jerund to sit down in it. Cien lead her to the back, to where people were sitting in the rows of seats, waiting anxiously to arrive on the space station. Cien lead her to two empty seats, letting her sit by the window. “You really should rest love…” He said softly. Paige shook her head slightly. “I just can’t rest after all that…” He nodded “Alright, you do what you want to love.” He replied gently. She turned and looked out the window at the stars, loosing herself in thought as they traveled away from Earth.
Cien looked over at Paige, glad that she was finally sleeping. As well as she might feel it had really only been a short time since she was in the hospital and her body still needed time to fully heal. He rose carefully from his chair and walked toward the front of the ship knowing that would be where he would find Jerund. The general was sitting in the cockpit, looking over a computer listing his face sad. Cien sat down in a chair beside him. “Is that the list…?” Jerund nodded. “Yea…at first I thought we had done pretty well but I’m still not used to double personnel. We got all that we could.” Jerund sighed, shaking his head and looking over the list again. Cien touched his arm. “Is there anyone I need to know?” Jerund nodded sadly. “Jayson, Michael, Christina, Helga, Winter, Duke…and Angela…” Cien groaned softly and Jerund touched his arm just lightly. “Paige isn’t going to take that well…but…she might have made it to the fall-out shelter.” Cien nodded. “I hope so…Peter’s not taking it well is he?” Jerund shook his head. “He’s strong but this…” Jerund sighed. “It’s hard to see they boy go through that…but we saved all that we could…if we had stayed behind any longer…” Cien nodded. “I know, deep down everyone knows…How many total did we have to leave behind?” “About sixty three didn’t make it to the ship.” Cien looked at the floor and shook his head, not knowing what to say. He shifted awkwardly. “I’d…I better go tell Paige…” He turned and walked quickly, back towards the back, his steps slowing with his reluctance to deliver the sad news to his sleeping wife. He stood for a moment, just watching her sleep, and then he sat down with a sigh. She rolled away from the window and pillowed her head on his shoulder. He stroked her hair and noticed her cheeks were already tear stained. “Love…your sister…” He spoke softly. Paige nodded and gave a shaky sigh. “I know…” Cien looked down at her. “Don’t loose hope love…she could have made it to the fall out shelters…” Paige nodded again, silent and staring. Cien felt the echoes of her pain from his own life and just held her close against him, stroking her hair gently until he had sent her back to sleep. He wished he could follow her into that gentle oblivion but sleep eluded him. He lay his head back against the headrest and stared out the window at the vast starscape around them.