So this is the last chapter. I don't know why, but I can't do endings. It's really easy to start something, really exciting to weave the middle onto it, but the ending... Sheesh, I don't remember ever finishing something this big before.
As for an epilogue, this one doesnt really qualify as one. Due to the fact that there will most likely be a sequel after this story, I don't see a purpose in adding one. If I find that it may be confusing, then I'll slap one on there.
So what are you waiting for, read it!
Chapter 32: The Beginning-
The losses were terrible, and it refreshed the captain's memory on how powerful the alien race was. The sad thing was, there were hundreds, if not thousands more of ships just like that. Any person with sense could tell you that if their fleet decided you were an enemy, survival, let alone victory, wouldn't be easy.
The captain sighed, straightened out his black shirt, and stood straight. He never did like funeral services; they only made letting go of the dead even harder. The large amphitheatre on the Crego, usually used for important announcements, was changed into a graveyard. Among the hundreds of modestly decorated tombs, each symbolizing a dead crewman, there were a few other ones that immediately caught the captain's eye. One was of Admiral Thorpe, which had replicas of his medals draped over the stone. There was one for the Var Equinallin's medic. The captain didn't tell Bergman everything about the Psionic, partly because he wasn't sure if anyone would believe it.
One by one, the captain gently passed his hand over the stones, reading the names to himself. Finally, he stopped after the last one. There was a tombstone missing.
"Excuse me?" he motioned for an attendant to come. "I think you missed a crew member. Do you have records of the Var Equinallin's engineer?"
The busy-looking attendant walked over to the nearest computer, and searched through rows and rows of words and letters. The flow of data stopped, replaced by a black screen.
"I'm sorry. These tombs are for the dead crew members, not the equipment. If I'm not mistaken, the engineer was an android?"
"That explains it then. You'll find its report in the 'Missing Hardware' list. Sorry to leave you so suddenly, I've got to go get the podium ready."
She left the captain wondering why the engineer didn't deserve a spot right next to every other casualty. With an almost mocking tone, he said to himself, "Of course, he was just an android, a machine."
The captain caught Jozwiak's attention, who started making his way over to him. The Admiral's graying hair was combed over to the side, and his moustache might've been combed as well. The captain rubbed his hands over his own face, still getting used to the shave he just had a few hours ago.
"Captain," said Jozwiak "I heard that you were wondering about your engineer. I know I should've given it to you before, but here it is anyway."
He extended his hand and revealed a small, computer chip.
"One of our search parties found this in a dense jungle area on Notrium. It's a wonder how they ever saw it hidden beneath the trees, but we think it may have belonged to your android engineer. None of our computers can open it though."
The captain plucked the chip from Jozwiak's hand, and examined it. It had scratch marks on it, but was otherwise in perfect condition.
"Thanks. I think you're right. It looks like it belonged to him."
"You're welcome. Come join in the ending speeches if you can. Nothing would be more inspiring than for the captain of the Var' Equinallin to end the funeral on a high note. Just a few quick words will do."
The captain looked over to the empty podium, and the waiting eyes of the audience. Without a single word of reply, he turned and left the hall. Forget the speeches and inspiration. He just wanted to leave that dreary funeral.
Log of the (destroyed ship): Var' Equinallin's Captain:
"These past... what have they been, months? They seem more like lifetimes to me. I once went to the Hive to discover its secrets, but ended up knowing more about myself than I would ever imagine possible. Sometimes people don't like what they see, so they refuse to open their eyes. I've opened mine, and I can see the real me for the first time in my life. It may seem like I'm exaggerating, but that's really how it's been for me. I was a blind follower of the shadows of my foes, but now I see. I can see the balance of life and death in the universe, much like the one that existed on Notrium. I can see how I can make a difference in these constant struggles.
Everything has happened so quickly. It's almost unreal. Even so, I feel that at these very moments, my life has just begun. There will be more battles to be fought, so I turn my eyes to the future. The alien threat is still out there, endangering humanity every second it lives. I don't care for the money and fame anymore. I want to preserve whatever those aliens left behind the first time, because now, they won't find us such easy targets.
I'm thrown back into the deadly game of push and pull that is the job of a navy captain.
Once the Crego reaches New Berlin system for repairs, I’m immediately due for an assignment. The recent battles against pirates and aliens have left the United Confederacy shorthanded. To tell the truth, I’m anxious to get back to the front lines. All of the desperate men and women whom I fight alongside and the thought of home... are what will bring me through these difficult times.
Well, I'm going back to analyzing the sensor records we took of the alien ships. I've rarely seen so many of them up close, and this is a good time to get to know the enemy a little better. Their tech is better than ours, but, like ours, it's bound to have weak points."
The captain reclined on the soft synthetic leather sofa. The journal pad was still in his hand along with a computer holding diagrams of the alien ships. Contrary to what he said in the journal, he wasn't working, but sleeping. After all, his body just went through hell and back, the last nap he had was prematurely interrupted, and he had been working on the diagram analysis for hours.
There would be no grand exit, no thrilling intro to the adventures he would soon be cast into. There would only be the captain, a ship, and the stars to guide the way. Even though he slept, every fiber of his body and mind were tense with anticipation.
After all, this was only the beginning.