The light from the morning sun is temporarily blinding as we make our way out to where the crew is waiting. Banner has my bags at his side, which are humongous compared to his. He is going to stay with me at my family's house for a couple of days to explain the protocol and why I'm back. Crew mates also go back to make sure the situation at home is a good one, where the Valer is safe.
I hear Aaron say something most likely sarcastic, which Banner and Kay start snickering at. I don't miss Susumu's strict expression in their direction, to which they immediately stop and stand at attention. I look around, trying to find the others, but I can't see them anywhere.
"Where are the others?" I ask, confused. What if I don't get the opportunity to say goodbye to them?
Susumu looks slightly uncomfortable as we approach. "They had to report to the Corps for an upcoming mission. We're trying to figure out whether to get a temporary replacement or just have a group of three." As he explains, my mood only worsens. A mission? Poor timing on behalf of Bluevale.
"So I'm not going to get to say goodbye," I say it more to myself. Could this day get any worse?
"They've all already forwarded letters to your home address, so there will be something waiting for you when you get there." He lets out a laugh. "I personally feel sorry for the Corps. They're going to have some angry Valers on their hands."
The crew always has gotten along surprisingly well, especially considering all of our differences. It all led to very strong relationships between all of us. It's a rare thing to see only five of us together. My heart pangs with an aching regret at not being able to say goodbye to the other three.
"Naomi my love!" Aaron shouts, breaking from his rigid stance. I laugh as he wraps me into a hug, planting a wet kiss on my head. Aaron is the real veteran here, having been in Crew 47 for nearly eleven years. He was my first friend here, even though I was terrified of him at first. 6'4, and around 245 pounds, he could crush me between his fingers. I remember asking him about his dark skin, because I had never before seen an African-American. He teased me and said they painted him so he could blend in with the night and not be detected, which was why he went on so many special missions. My ten year old self believed him for a shameful amount of time before someone finally explained about ethnicity. Bluevale is one big melting pot, full of people from all four corners of the earth. Part of our job here is to introduce people of different ethnicities to each other all over the world so everyone can see that we’re all ultimately the same.
“Don’t suffocate her,” Kay mumbles under her breath. I get out of Aaron’s hold to turn to the beautiful Native American. She flicks her caramel-gold hair off her shoulder before coming forward to embrace me as well. I breathe in her fresh scent that has comforted me on many occasions.
This is my home, right here. This is where I grew up, this is where I became who I am. Right here, in the arms of my crew. Kay was recruited to Bluevale the same time I was, so we became instant friends. She is only one year older than me, so we had a complete understanding of what the other felt. This girl is my sister.
Our sentimental moment is interrupted by the roar of a plane engine. The sound seems set on drowning me where I stand, and the only thing keeping me upright are the eyes of my crew looking at me intently. I can’t break down in front of them, I know that. Self control is one of the very first lessons they teach us at Bluevale.
When the plane at last comes to a stop, Banner puts our stuff on board before returning and giving me a nod. I know exactly what that nod means: Time to go.
Susumu puts a comforting hand on my shoulder, but I don’t look at him. Instead, I look at the plane that will be taking me away from my home.
“I’ll be back,” is all I say, because I don’t know what else I could possibly do. Then, Banner wraps an arm around my shoulders and leads me to the plane.