The droning alarm slowly crept into Amon's dream until reality struck him like a bucket of cold water. He literally jumped out of bed and stood there, completely disoriented, waiting for his mind to catch up. "Where am I?" He was in an apartment. No, it was a suite. The bed was empty, but the sheets on the far side were creased as though someone had slept there beside him. Slowly, the pieces came together and he sighed, wiping his face with both hands. "What have I done?" His eyes moved to the numbers on the clock, he had just about an hour to make it to the transport. His dress uniform was wrinkled and his shirt was unbuttoned when he left the room.
He looked over his shoulder.
Epi, the flight leader of Shepherd Delta, was just leaving his room. "Damn, that's your room? Man, I had a hard time trying to sleep last night with all the noise you two made." He smiled, "She must have been good."
Almitt's pupils contracted to a pin point. "Who?"
"Whoever you had in that room! I heard the locals were wild, but I never thought-”
“Yeah, the locals.” Almitt said, laughing awkwardly. “They're crazy.”
A half hour later, most of the crew were once again on-board the cargo transport, readying to leave for the Scipio. The container, fitted with folding seats, was bustling with bodies. The chatter of hundreds of conversations echoed through the long and narrow cabin.
“I heard someone had a good time.” one of the men shouted. “Hey Lieutenant Colonel?”
Almitt's brow furrowed, but he remained looking forward.
The men snickered.
“Undoubtedly some local slut.” Ismaly said in disdain.
Almitt turned in his seat and stared at her, his gaze a mix of confusion and anger. Could she have blacked out? “Actually she was pretty classy.” He said.
Ismaly's eyes rolled. “I highly doubt it.” Her eyes locked on to his, and she stared right into his soul. “Have solace in knowing you'll never see her again.”
Almitt understood. He cast her a nearly unperceivable nod. “I had no intention of seeing her again anyway.”
“Oh, is the Princess jealous?” came a voice from the crowd.
“Terribly.” She said, in the most facetious way one could say the word.
The cabin erupted into laughter.
On the Scipio, the Captain watched as the icon displaying the location of the Transport began climbing off the planet's surface. He sighed. “ I hope they had a good time.”
“Did you?” asked the first officer.
Michael turned to him, confused. The glint of realization shined across his eyes. “Oh, yes. I did. Meeting with Rachel wasn't originally part of the plan, so it was a short lived visit.”
“Worth every second I'm sure.”
Michael nodded, his gaze returning to the holographic display of the planet. “Her mother was nice enough to allow us a few hours of air time. She doesn't like it when I bring her up, but I know Rachel inherited at least one trait from her father; She loves the sky.”
“It's good that you two keep on friendly terms.”
Michael laughed. “Monica and I are not on friendly terms. Speaking, yes, but not friendly.”
“Sorry. I didn't mean-”
“Don't worry about it Geoffrey.”
Commander Williams nodded and looked down to the Glas in his hand. “Well, the Admiral will be boarding shortly, I'll go meet him on the flight deck. Marmossa?”
The grizzled veteran stood up and moved to Commander Williams' side as they made their way down the stairs.
Michael took in a deep breath, his mind returning once more to the young men and women aboard the transport. He tried desperately to convince himself that the shore leave would somehow make up for the hell he was about to bring them toward.
He did not succeed.