Chapter Six: Erratas in War
Cien and Paige lay on a hill slightly above and to the north of the base. They had taken a blanket and, since the night was clear, they had gone out to look at the stars. Paige was pointing out constellations as they lay, her head on his chest, his arm around her, staring up into the vast expanse above them. “There, that’s Cassiopeia. And over there, that’s Orion, my favorite.” Cien looked down, tilting Paige’s chin up to look into his eyes. In the darkness they were deep, bottomless pools. She smiled slightly and leaned up to kiss him lightly on the lips. “Something you need handsome?” Cien gave a slight sigh and his eyes became troubled. “I love you…but there’s things you don’t know about me, that you will need to know, especially if you are sure you want to marry me.” Paige said up, looking down at him. “I am sure I want to marry you Cien and nothing could stop me. We all have are secrets…even I do.” She looked away into the desert, her gold eyes troubled. “Are you alright love? What’s wrong?” Cien sat up and put his arms around her. Paige sighed and looked up at him with a half smile. “Just remembering, that’s all Cien, it’s nothing.” “If it troubles you, Paige, it is something.” He replied gently. Paige shook her head. “You’ll think I’m crazy.” “I trust you love and I’ll believe you. I promise.” Cien tilted her chin up again to look into her eyes and she could see he was being honest with her. She sighed, a little reluctant but nodded. “Okay, I’ll tell you. First thing is that I am adopted. I was found in a field an Oklahoma when I was around three or four and was quickly placed in a home with the Fardreamers.” “That’s not so odd love.” Paige nodded. “I know, but the next part is. When I was around eleven I used to play near a creek behind our house. It was a quiet summer day and I was back there as usual. The stream cut through several fields and I was just walking down it that day when I saw a ship.” “A boat?” Cien inquired softly. “No, a space ship. There were two men outside the ship and they saw me and spoke with me. Suddenly the area came alive with special agents. The younger of the two men gave me a kiss on the cheek and told me to be a good girl, then they got into their ship and left. The government took me and ran tests, trying to see why those men had contacted me. They found that I was different, something about my brain chemistry and my reaction times, I don’t really remember now. They asked me if I wanted to be a pilot and fly a plane, so I said yes. They took me away from my family; I only got to see them a few times a month. Most of my friends from home forgot about me. Expect for one boy, Peter. It was a tough life for a kid. When I turned sixteen they placed me under Jester’s supervision. He took me under his wing and was like an older brother to me…and then things all change…” She trails off and Cien just held her close for several long minutes. “Love, love, I believe you.” He said softly. Paige looked up into his eyes. “You do?” He nodded solemnly. “I’ll tell you why also. I-“ His words were cut off by the roar of a plane as it screamed in for a landing at the base. Paige pulled out her pistol and they crawled to the top of the hill, looking down on the runway. In the darkness they could see the shape of a plane, its running lights the only illumination until the back hatch let down. Light spilled out across the runway and shadowy figures filed out of the hatch. Paige heard a clicking and glanced back at Cien. He was putting together a strange looking rifle. He grinned, his teeth white in the darkness. “A new sniper rifle. Watch.” He turned and looked through the scope, adjusting it and taking careful aim. As Paige watched one of the shadowy figures fell. Another bent to check him and cried out in a rough dialect, though he was quickly silenced by Cien’s gun. A few of the figures looked around then took off into the night. Several figures appeared at the back hatch, firing at those fleeing into the desert night. Once Cien’s fire had dropped several of them they fell back, trying to use the plane for some shielding. There was a scuffle there though and several more figures fled into the desert, shots from the plane trailing them. Several stumbled, and two fell, laying unmoving in the sand. Cien sighed as the gun clicked. “I’m out of bullets.” He said softly, pulling out his nine millimeter. A rustle, then soft footsteps approached and Paige turned, training her gun on a limping figure. The figure made it to their blanket then fell with a groan and lay still. Paige looked at Cien, and then slowly went forward. The figure stirred at their approach. “Are you friend or foe?” The person asked with a slight southern accent. Paige knelt by his side. “We’re friends I suppose. Where were you hit?” “In the calf, not too bad, but I didn’t enjoy it.” Paige ripped a strip from the blanket she and Cien had been laying on and used it to bind the mans wound. Paige turned to Cien. Why don’t you see if you can round up the others that ran off? If there’s more of us we have a better chance of helping out inside the base.” Cien nodded but looked worried. “Are you sure you’ll be okay here by yourself Love?” He asked her. The man spoke up. “She won’t be alone. It’s only my leg that’s wounded.” Cien nodded and turned, walking off into the night. Paige looked down at the man. “How many were on that plane?” “About a hundred. All the forces they would need to occupy this base, including us conscripts to do the grunt work. I’m not sure how many defected but their numbers should be down to around eighty or eighty five. How many on the base?” Paige thought a moment. “Not many at all, only about one hundred fifty or so.” The man nodded in the darkness and fell into silence. It seemed hours before any sound other than the returning desert night sounds reached their ears, then finally several sets of foot steps. Cien materialized out of the night, surrounded by a group of men and women. Some were being supported by others but most walked unaided. Paige smiled in relief and stood. “How many are there that will be able to help?” “Seventeen.” Cien replied. The man on the blanket started to rise but a woman, her arm in a makeshift sling knelt beside him and held him down. “Lay still Jonathan, what is it?” Paige and Cien both looked down at the injured man. “Take the plane. There’s a squadron of fighters coming in soon, about thirty minutes. If you can take the plane you can go and intercept them.” Cien looked down at Paige. “We’ve got to get into the base. I’ll take the uninjured ones and head for the hanger; we’ll take out the plane on our way in. You take the injured and see if you can make it down to the medical ward. Some of them are not so good off.” Paige nodded silently and he pulled her into a passionate kiss. “Be careful.” He said softly as he broke the kiss. Paige nodded. “You too love.” Cien smiled slightly then turned and stalked off into the darkness.

Cien and the well members of the group of defectors snuck up close to the plane in the darkness. It popped and hissed as it cooled down, it’s noises covering any that they might have made. Two of the defectors stole inside while Cien and the others walked around the plane checking for any guards that had been left behind. The two defectors we waiting at the back hatch when Cien and the others returned. One had small blood spots up his right arm. “Threat neutralized.” He reported quietly. Cien nodded once. “Alright then, lets get to the hanger. They turned and followed him down to the end of the runway. Cien pulled his control box from his pocket and pressed the appropriate sequence of buttons and the hanger door opened up into the night. Jerund and a group came up the ramp meeting Cien on his way into the hanger. “Where’s Paige?” The dark skinned man asked. “She’s taking the injured down to the medical ward. What’s the situation?” “There are several firefights going on within the base.” “The hanger?” “Things here are secure.” Cien nodded. “Good. We need to get a flight ready, fighters are incoming. We neutralized the pilots in the plane so they don’t know that they will meet opposition.” Jerund gave a feral grin and nodded. “Good, good.” He turned and starting calling out order. “Alright, get me twelve planes ready to fly. Cien you’re on my wing. Christina, Blake, Paul Jayson, Duke, Helga Jake, Michael…” He turned and pointed at one of the defectors, a girl with long wavy brown hair. “You have pilot training?” The girl nodded. Good, you also then. What’s your name?” “Nikki sir.” Jerund nodded then turned back. “You eleven will be flying with me. The rest of you, once we gets the planes gassed and loaded, you will go and help secure the base.” He pointed at two more of the defectors. “You get that plane on the runway into this hanger. Get moving!” He stalked off into the hanger urging the pilots and monkeys on even as he helped with the work. Cien turned and started loading up his jet.

  Paige lead the way slowly down the steps into the base. It had taken them a while to get everyone able to move and they had been forced to advance very slowly just to get to the shack. Sounds of sporadic gunfire drifted up and they had passed several bodies already. They walked cautiously into the mess hall to find it deserted. Gunfire sounded more clearly now from both the pilots halls and Paige gave a slight sigh, her expression hardening. She checked the clip in her gun and turned a glance back at the defector pilots. They just stared back prepared for the situation they were about to enter into. Jonathan, leaning on the woman from earlier, who had stark white hair, nodded to her. Paige turned then and slowly started down the stairs to the pilots hall that belonged to Jester’s pilots and also housed the medical ward. They came up slowly behind an enemy unit, trading fire with the remaining members of the cowboys squadron. One of the soldiers glanced back, did a double take then tapped the guy beside him on the shoulder with a grin. The backed off, joining the group of injured defectors. Paige nodded them once, and then opened fire on the enemy soldiers. Caught in the crossfire the soldier fell back into the doorways, leaving half their number on the hallway floor. One of the cowboys, Paige couldn’t put a name to his face looked over her motley group. “Jester’s held the medical ward with Crix. They locked it down when the firefight started down here.” Paige nodded. “Alright. We’ve got to go down there though. We’ve wounded.” The cowboy nodded. “We’ll cover for you as best we can but you’ll have to run for it.” Paige nodded and lead the way down the hall. Shots rang out around her and she fired as she ran towards the end of the hall. Shots chipped cement from the floor but she made the trip unscathed. She reached the door, typing in the emergency lock code. The door slid open and Paige heard a shot before she even saw Jester’s gun. He dropped it with a clatter on the floor and caught her as she fell forward. ”Oh god…” He cradled gently. “I…” Paige put her hand over the wound, pulling it back to dumbly stare at her own blood. She heard a flurry of activity but the world tilted and slid away into blackness.

Jerund lead the fighters across the terrain away from their home base. He was proud of the short amount of time they had managed to get ready in. He lead the flight, Cien on his right. The rest strung out through the night, accompanied by their wingmen. The should meet up with the enemy fighters in only a few minutes, if the information they had been given was true. Jerund scanned the night ahead of him, watching his radar for any sign of the enemy. Just as he was beginning to get nervous a dozen dots glowed to life on his radar screen. “There are the targets…” He said softly with a smile. He clicked his mike, alerting the others. Several other clicks followed as each of the twelve gave confirmation of his sighting. He was hoping that their terrain following flying would mask them from the approaching fighters until it was too late. The closer they got the more nervous he got, and then it was time. He jerked his flight stick back, sending his jet into a steep climb, his nose aimed at the belly of the nearest fighter. He flipped a switch and got a tone almost immediately. He released the missile and watched the jet above try to evade uselessly. It was too close a shot. The plane exploded brilliantly into a ball of flames, raining debris on the ground below. One of the jets pealed off, flashing it’s landing lights. A voice came over his radio, distorted by the other calls going out in the battle. “I surrender! Don’t shoot!” Jerund clicked on his radio. “Go to ground, stay out of the battle. You’ll be escorted after the battle.” The plane went low, circling below the milling dogfight. Jerund checked his radar. Their surprise attack had taken a severe toll on the enemy fighters. Six had been destroyed in the initial attack and the rest were quickly heading the way of their fellows. The dogfight now swirled around him and he saw a few of their own planes take some minor hits. One broke off from the attack and Jerund keyed his radio on. “Paul, you alright?” “Yea, just took a bit of shrapnel into my jet and it shorted out some equipment. I’ve got some minor burns but I’m still in fighting condition.” “Alright then, if you need to, stay out of the way.”  Jerund keyed off his radio and grunted slightly as he felt a sharp pain in his stomach, and he gasped in a breath, then shook it off, looking around the battle for another target. Instead he saw Cien, turning away from the thick of battle. “Major, where are you going?” Cien’s voice was strained. “Paige…got…I gota go to Paige. She’s…injured…hurt, my love” Jerund sighed and set his jaw. “Major Ranier, you will return to battle immediately. She is at the base, where she can get the medical care she would need if injured and you are needed here.” “But…I…” “Return to battle Major Ranier!” Jerund barked. Cien turned and returned to the fight as Christina and Blake destroyed the last remaining enemy fighter. He fell in obediently on Jerund’s wing.  “Enemy defector, fall in on my left wing. The rest of you, from up. We’re going home.” All of the jets fell neatly into position and Jerund turned, leading the way back to base,

Jester looked down at Paige, trying not to beat himself up mentally. How could he have been so stupid as to shoot her? He, Crix and one of the women defectors, the one with the white hair who said she went by Winter, had managed to stabilize her but he was anxious for Jerund to return with the other pilots, however much he dreaded facing Cien. He checked her readings as decided they were as well as could be expected at the time. Of the survivors, she was the worst injured. They had taken heavy losses defending the base. Out of the one hundred and sixty people he had on base, plus the thirty defectors, they had lost eighteen people, with fifty four injured. The medical ward was full. He had sent those that he could, all total about thirty five, back to their rooms with some pain medicine to rest and recover. The rest lay on beds, cots, and pallets on the floor. Every bit of available space was taken up. Jester stood, running the bridge of his nose. He wouldn’t be getting any rest anytime soon, he knew. One of the defectors walked up to him. “Jerund and the others are just about to land.” He told Jester. Jester nodded his thanks and turned, threading his way to the door and headed up to the hanger.

When Cien got out of his jet Jester was waiting on him, emotion showing plain on his face, free for everyone to read. “Paige was shot in the abdomen during the attack, getting the injured defectors to the medical ward…she stabilized, but…” Jester looked at the floor. “I…it was me that shot her.” Jester waited for a blow of some sort, but nothing came. He looked up and Cien’s eyes frightened him. They were still their deep blue-violet they always had been but instead of deep pools they had the consistency and warmth of glacier ice. He saw himself reflected in the mans dead stare and it frightened him. Cien did nothing, just turned and walked off into the base silently. Jerund walked over to Jester. “We had a defector from the squadron. They’re demanding to speak to you Jester.” Jester shook his head. “I haven’t got the time right now.” He turned to go but Jerund spoke again. “Jester, they’re asking for you by name.” Jester turned and looked at Jerund in disbelief as he spoke a single word softly. “Tris?” Jerund nodded slightly and pointed across the hanger to where a dark plane sat among the gray of the freedom squadrons planes. A woman stood by it, her helmet off and allowing her long auburn hair to swing free to her waist. She was talking to Christina but turned as footsteps approached. Jester enfolded her gently in his arms, burying his face in her hair and just breathing in the scent of her, his Tris. Tris wrapped her arms around him and he heard Christina walk quietly away, leaving them to each other. “I looked for you…I thought I had lost you, oh Tris, my love.” Tris shushed him. “I’m here now, Will, and I’m not leaving again anytime soon if I can help it.” He just held her close for a moment longer then pulled away, guilt flooding his consciousness. Where was the fairness in the world anymore? He had almost taken Cien’s love from him, but here was Tris standing in front of him. He kissed her cheek. “I…I’ve got to go. There are so many people injured.” His eyes held pain, but Tris was not sure if it was for having to leave her or for the injured people under his command. “Go Will, I understand.” Jester nodded and turned reluctantly and headed back down to the medical ward.

Cien felt lost as he wandered through the base. The carnage was lost on him as he stepped over the bodies of friend and foe alike, in a daze. It was Paul who finally found him, sitting on the steps to the shack. Paul sat down beside him, cradling his injured hand gently. “How’re you going?” Cien ask him softly. “I’m doing okay.” Paul replied. “What about you?” Cien turned his dead eyes on his friend but Paul stared back, unflinchingly. Cien sighed and looked away. “I feel lost. I don’t know where to go, what to do, nothing. I mean, I…” Cien trailed off, sighing helplessly and looking accusingly down at the ground as if it held the answer. “They’re still trying to get cleaned up in the base. Jerund sent me to look for you, said it would do you good to help out.” Cien nodded and rose, lets get going then.” He said softly and followed Paul into the shack and down into the base. Cien wasn’t sure how long he worked. He followed Paul around the base, doing work when asked. He ignored the worried looks Paul shot in his direction from time to time, ignored everything but the work he was doing. When he was finished he would ask for more then go and do as directed. He finally turned and looked and saw no more work to be done. He looked about, realizing he was in the mess hall. Jerund was sitting at a table near the door that lead to the pilots halls, but other than him, there was no one around. Jerund motioned him over and Cien went, standing in front of the general. “Is there something else I need to do sir?” He asked quietly. Jerund shook his head. “Other than go to your room and get some sleep no. However, I do need you to come by the medical ward in the morning. We need blood donations for the injured soldiers.” “I could go now sir.” Cien replied, pain reflected with hope in his blue eyes. Jerund shook his head firmly. “I don’t want you in there yet.” “Please…” Cien said softly, the hope retreating as worry and heartache won out. “I…I just need to see her, that’s all.” Jerund sighed and stood. “She’s not awake son, it’s not pretty either.” “I just need to see her, just for a second.” Cien reiterated.  Jerund sighed and nodded reluctantly. “Okay…but only for a second.” Jerund rose and lead the way down to the medical ward, Cien trailing behind. As they walked in Jester looked up, then away quickly, unwilling to meet Cien’s eyes. If Jerund noticed, he said nothing, simply lead the way to a back room. He opened the door and walked in. Cien hesitated for a second then followed him into the room. Paige lay on a bed, tubes and electrodes connecting her to various machines. Cien groaned and walked to her side, stroking her hair gently. “Oh love…” He leaned over and kisses her cheek. He looked at her hand and noticed that the engagement ring was missing; he looked at Jerund. The man handed it over. “You know we have to remove all jewelry. Keep it safe for her.” Cien nodded and placed the ring safely in his pocket. Jerund motioned him out. “You need to go now. I promise we’ll call you if anything happens. Cien nodded, casting one last long look at Paige, he left. Jerund followed him out, shutting the door behind him.

Jester returned to his room late the next evening, or early in the morning, depending on your point of view. Tris was waiting on him. She rose and went to him and he enfolded her gently in his arms, thankful that she knew him so well. “How is she?” She asked softly. “She’s surviving, amazingly. We’ve got to go in and do surgery soon though and repair the damage…” He took a deep breath. “The damage that I did.” Tris shushed him. “It was an accident Will. Accidents happen. It was a battle and you were trying to protect your patients.” Jester nodded. “I know…still though…” Tris put her finger over his lips. “You can’t change the past, honey. It’s done and no amount of “what ifs” can change it. We have to live with what happened and do what we can to make it right.” Jester nodded. “You’re right of course.” She pulled out of his embrace and took his hand. “Come on. You need rest.” He allowed her to lead him to the bed and obeyed meekly as she pushed him gently down on it. She pulled his boots off for him and lay down at his side. He put his arm around her and allowed his body to finally rest.

Cien sat beside Paige’s bed in the medical ward. Jerund and Jester were doing surgery later that day to repair some of the internal damage that had to be fixed. Cien knew this was a dangerous procedure but he also knew that it had to be done. Jerund had given him time to be with Paige before the surgery. She was so pale now. Cien stroked her hair back away from her face with a gentle hand. A noise at the door made him look up. Jerund was standing there, out of uniform and in surgical scrubs. Cien sighed slightly and turned back to Paige, kissing her cheek gently, unable to kiss her lips because of the tube that was breathing for her, and then turned for the door. Jerund lay a hand gently on his shoulder. “We’ll take our best care of her, you know that.” Cien closed his eyes, nodding. “I know.” He walked out and headed up to the mess hall. It was empty at this hours of the day. He walked into the old kitchen area that had become the unofficial base bar and picked up an unlabeled bottle and a shot glass and walked back out. He took a table in the far corner, away from the doors leading to the pilots halls and to the hanger. He poured himself one shot then set both bottle and shot in front of him. He sat there, waiting. Lunch came and went, and various pilots came through. Many cast as sympathetic look in his direction but none approached. Cien just sat, staring at the bottle and the shot in front of him. A dark flight suit crossed his field of vision and Jerund sat down in front of him. Cien still said nothing, just looked up and into Jerunds eyes. “She’s fine boy. We fixed what we could and now we just have to wait. She’s strong though.” Cien nodded and spoke softly. “I know.” He downed the shot and then placed the shot glass over the top of the bottle and carried them back to the kitchen. Jerund watched as he walked back out. Cien hesitated a second them walked back over to Jerund. “When can I see her?” He asked the older man softly. “In the morning. Get some rest Cien, please.” Cien nodded. “I’ll try.” With that, he turned and walked off into the base.

Cien sat beside Paige, stroking her hair. Three days had passed since her surgery. The medical ward was quieter now as more people had been able to leave. Paige had been able to come off the ventilator the day before, much to Cien’s relief. Jerund was hoping she would wake soon, but he wasn’t sure when. Cien spent as much time as possible with her,  just waiting for her to wake, longing to be able to look into her golden eyes once again, and see the love she had for him shine out from their depths. He leaned over and kissed her lips lightly, reveling in the fact that he could do something even as simple as that. Her eye lids fluttered, then opened and he smiled. “Hey love.” He said softly Paige smiled back and spoke softly, her voice barely above a whisper. “Hey yourself.” Cien stroked her hair. “Nice to see  those beautiful eyes of yours again love of mine. I’ve missed them. No, don’t try to talk; I know how weak you are. You’ve been through a lot love. Just rest and get well for me, okay?” Paige nodded slightly and closed her eyes, falling back asleep. Cien rose and walked out smiling for the first time in days.

Paige woke, looking around her room. She felt stronger today, and she looked around. She was alone for the first time. Every other time she had been awake there had been others, their expressions worried or relieved hovering around her bed. She shifted in the bed and reached out, adjusting the head of the bed a bit higher. The sound of her bed moving brought a white haired woman through the door. She smiled at Paige. “Hi, I’m Winter. Jerund and Jester are out at lunch right now so they left me in charge. How’re you feeling?” “A little stronger today, not in too much pain.” Winter nodded and walked to her bedside, checking different monitors. “You’re vital signs are looking good. Your temperature is back down to normal. Hopefully you can start getting up and around soon. Are you hungry? Thirsty? I can get you something.” Paige nodded. “Yes please, I am actually.” Winter nodded and checked her chart. “Something light. I’ll be back in a few minutes. She left and Paige lay back to wait. When the door reopened, she expected Winter with the food but Cien entered, smiling broadly. “Hey love.” He carried a tray into her room and sat it in front of her. “Here, I know it’s only some toast and a little lemonade, but I hope it’s okay with you.” Paige nodded and dug in with an eagerness that made Cien chuckle as he sat down beside her. He just watched her eat, happy to be in her presence. When she finished he smiled at her again. “I’ve got something of yours.” He said as he reached into his pocket and pulled out the engagement ring, slipping it gently onto her hand. Paige smiled. “I had hoped that they hadn’t cut it off. I’m glad you had it love.” “Jerund gave it to me for safe keeping. I wanted to give it back as soon as you were awake enough.” Paige nodded and lay back in the bed. Eating had tired her out and her stomach ached a bit from the strain of sitting up even slightly. Cien leaned over and kissed her lips lightly; surprised at the passion she returned his kiss with, making it much longer than he had first intended. When they finally broke apart he grinned. “Good to know you’re feeling so much better Love, but you’re far from well and I can tell you’re tired. Rest now.” Paige nodded and Cien rose, taking the tray and heading out the door, shutting off the lights on his way out and shutting the door quietly behind him.

Paige walked up into the mess hall, Cien hovering protectively at her side. “I can walk up the steps by myself love of mine.” She protested. Cien laughed softly. “I know, still, can you blame me for worrying? A little over three weeks ago we weren’t even sure if you would live or not.” Paige nodded. “I know honey. I’m okay now though, really.” Christina was sitting at a table with Paul, Crix and Michael and she waved them over, smiling. Paige walked over and sat, Cien beside her. Christina gave Paige a quick hug. “It’s good to see you doing so well now.” Paul nodded. “Yea, it really is.” Paige blushed and looked down, wringing her hands slightly in her lap. Cien patted them and she smiled up at him. “Everyone’s coming back to active duty.” Michael said. Crix nodded. “The medical ward is back in order. We’re doing a lot of checkups but even so, most everyone is well now.” Paul nodded. “Lucky for us that loss surprised them enough to leave us mostly alone for these past weeks.” Michel grimaced slightly. “Yea, maybe, but I’m worried when it gets this quiet for this long.” Crix spoke up again. “Jerund is too. He’s planning a series of missions with Jester but I’m not sure where to yet.” Tris walked up and sat down across from Paige. “Hey guys, sorry I can’t sit and talk but I’ve got things to do right now, just delivering a message.” She looked at Paige. “Jester wants you to come by the medical ward later today for a checkup.” She rose and walked off toward the hanger. Cien looked at Paige. “Well, lets eat lunch, then go on down there.” Paige nodded with a smile and Cien kissed her on the cheek, and then walked off to get their food.

Paige walked into the medical ward, looking about for Jester. Cien had been drafted by a mechanic to go and help work on one of the planes. She had convinced him she would be fine and he had wandered off with the monkey. Jester spotted her as he came around the corner. “Ah! There you are. Come on, I actually have a room free at the moment.” He motioned her back toward a small examining room. Paige followed and he patted the examining table as she walked in and she took a seat on it. “How are you feeling? Any pain? Tenderness?” Paige shook her head and Jester nodded. “Alright, let me take a look at it, make sure it’s completely healed.” Paige unzipped her flight suit and pulled her t-shirt up a bit to reveal the scars from her wound and surgery. Jester probed each gently, nodding slightly as he did so. “Looks good to me. I’m putting you back on the active duty schedule tomorrow morning. You’re fit to fly.” Paige smiled happily. “I can go then?” Jester nodded. “Yup. Get some rest, with everyone coming off sick list there’s likely to be more missions soon and I’m sure we’ll need your help.” Paige nodded and walked out of the examining room and the medical ward and into the hall. Cien nearly ran all over her and reached out to steady her. “Sorry love, I was a million miles away.” Paige laughed. “Well your body wasn’t. I’m off sick list, back on active duty in the morning.” Cien smiled widely. “Wonderful! Lets celebrate. I’ll get a bottle of something not too corrosive from the bar, you round up Christina, Tris, Michael, Jester, hell, whoever, we’ll get a pool and ping pong tournament started in the hanger.” Paige chuckled. “Sounds good to me love, see you there.”

Paige and Cien walked back through the base to the pilots hall late that evening. Paige held to the small quickly made trophy a monkey had lathed out after she had won the pool tournament. Cien was steady on his feet, though his words were slightly slurred. She had not drunk to much herself but by the end of the evening, even the moderate drinkers had a light buzz. “Didn’t realize you could play pool so well love.” Cien said with a smile down at her. “I played a lot around the base. Being younger, I had trouble making friends, so I ended up shooting a lot of pool alone. Then people started playing against me and I started making friends. It was something to do.” She shrugged and yawned as they walked up to her door. She typed in her lock code and the door slid open. She smiled back at Cien and he pulled her into a kiss. When they finally broke for air he smiled at her lovingly. “Get some rest love. I’ll see you in the morning.” Paige nodded and walked into her room. The door shut behind her and sat her trophy on her desk. She sat down on her bed, removing her boots and unbraiding her long dark hair. She yawned  as she slipped out of her flight suit and slid in between the covers of her bed. She sat her pager beside her bed and reached out to turn off the lights, allowing herself to fall quickly to sleep.