"Give me a status on the damage!" Captain Koppale cried angrily during the flurry of retaliation which had rocked his ship and rattled his nerves. He had not yet lost his nerve, but an increasing pragmatism was being called for here so that informed decisions could be made.
That attack was brilliant yet merciless all at the same time with how the spacestation took a punch just to get the Captain's ship close enough for it to be able to turn around and deliver a countermeasure flurry which could not have been avoided even if he had tried. The brilliance lay in its objective that had nothing to do with gaining a victory in this moment but everything to do with sealing a victory in the next. He gazed at the large view-screen and watched the enemy vessel circle around Dio Qze one last time before jetting off to Space Force parts unknown.
"Shields are holding steadily at eighty-five percent," the requested voice answered back.
Through the tunnel vision of pensiveness, Captain Koppale did not mean to ignore the person's response, but he was already onto other things. Things like: Since when did spacestations become strong enough to withstand pulsar attacks? And: How did spacestation weaponry get to be this powerful? Sure, everybody knew about the fabled Mulgulous Weapon which had just been displayed in all its grandeur - right in front of him. But: Who even invited the Space Force to this random dispute between the Carriveaua and Galaxy Bloc?
"Our stealth capability has remained unflinching," another voice lauded.
Yes - for once, a Carriveaua vessel could stay concealed and not be destroyed when struck. There was nothing to get overconfident about however. The spacestation was holding back as well. The Captain wondered if this was a miscalculation on his part to engage, but he had to know. He needed to find out if these new ships happened to be capable of going toe-to-toe with the Space Force, and the answer was reassuring albeit disconcerting: They were - capable of matching up militarily but also likely to doom his people to the useless squabble of a pointless and ceaseless war.
Captain Koppale had mixed feelings about the subject but only because his hidden feelings were unpopular within the Carriveaua hierarchy and making those known by becoming vocal about them at the wrong time would get him into trouble. Similar to sticking around here and waiting for the Space Force to further investigate what had attacked their spacestation, posturing in either sense would have been inadvisable. He ordered, "Pull back to the home colonies."
As if this was open for actual debate, the Captain's orders were questioned, "But Sir - what about the Operational General?"
"Burdlit was a fool to become embroiled in such a fiasco," Captain Koppale replied. "He's not only jeopardized the Carriveaua mission with his incompetence, but now, the Space Force has seemingly been tipped off to our larger affairs. We'll see him again. Although, it'll take a much more surgical tact to retrieve the Operational General...in that future. As of this moment, however - we've already lost too many good soldiers over his mistakes, so the least he can do is have patience while the most he can hope for is some reconsideration."
Again, the Captain could not say what he really thought, but that did not prevent him from taking a shot at the Carriveaua establishment under the guise of offering an educational slant to the justification for the decision. He was still firm, yet affectionately so, and his crew absolutely adored him for that leadership tact. Queries were not seen as disrespectful second-guessing, plus input was welcomed, so the candidness of conversation kept the entire ship relaxed albeit focused and open-minded.
If only those Carriveaua (who sat in more influential, higher-up positions) would have been capable of extending the same amount of avid support for open-mindedness instead of causing Captain Koppale this uneasiness in his gut that he felt when the ship rerouted itself to leave this ever chaotic scene. They would be greatly interested in his report of the ship's performance, and this happened to be a curse in the flesh. There were not yet any blessings in disguise which could prevent what he foresaw as their foolhardy and needless demise at the hands of a much more adeptly tenured player in the Space Force. No good could come from a race of pacifists trying to play the part of warmongers without the requisite amount of motivation from a venerable cause helping to see them through the struggle. Fear might have been a great motivator in its own rite, but stupidity happened to be leading this charge, and like any other form of racism, it lacked vision with multiple backward steps marring a once suitable path forward which was now fated for derailment.
In demonstrating the alternative to the very habit that the Captain was passively trying to break the Carriveaua of, he did not look back at Dio Qze nor down upon its inhabitants and the prospects of their harrowing plight. But rather, this was the time to start building an active coalition of dissent amid the misguided direction of the powerful status quo. It was worth him adding one salient point to further support his own (view), "Although these are Galaxy Bloc areas, let's not forget that we're still far away from our own corner of the Quadron System, and this entire territory remains deeply controlled by the Space Force. We'll first regroup and then move forward with much greater purpose - as I'm sure the captain of that spacestation plans to do as well, so it behooves us to prepare."
A unanimous chorus of, "Yes, Sir," served as the consensus which quieted any further discussion on the topic.
Their concerns heard and addressed, Captain Koppale could turn back toward an internal mulling of his own apprehension. Considered to be the bigger picture, his fears were not so easily assuaged. He had managed to get one good shot in on that spacestation...because its captain allowed him to. This ship's location was almost certainly ascertained upon the onset of the pummeling counterattack, but the fact that nothing else was done to follow up on the uncovered intel meant that it was somehow secondary - perhaps tertiary in stature. All this sneaking around that the Carriveaua did, the Space Force operated boldly in the comfort of plain sight.
The Captain's people had no chance of succeeding in this endeavor: What, with all the hiding and then coming out from under cover to throw miniscule pebbles whenever they sought to wield their will? The Space Force often dropped boulders on such glass houses and did so without remorse, apologies, or much effort. For the Carriveaua to believe otherwise, those types of sentiments pushed past the realm of poor judgment and well into the recesses of the willfully suicidal. But he often wondered if one person could be capable of convincing a conglomerate of their folly and stared out at the roving universe on the view-screen for guidance.
From Boyd's Cabin and assigned quarters within the Ranking Officials' Living Section of the spacestation, the universe stared back through the window to the outside. In the form of Lalia, she already knew the answer to that question as a resounding falsity. One person could not go against the ideological leanings of a faction let alone a megapower with any hope of success because the very concept was an oxymoron. It was neither her plan nor the Enforcer's to save the Space Force. They could care less and were trying to save themselves...from the megapower. This grander scheme of wanting to improve the judicial governance over the universe and trying to affect the spanning political climate was for the martyrs to sort out. Interestingly, that outcome completely defeated the purpose of their long-term goal.
Some people found immense pleasure in pulling strings, but Lalia would much rather cut ties. Again she watched the physical distance between herself and Boyd increase as SpaceStation Konxerus left Dio Qze's orbit. Being the life partner of an enlisted individual was never easy, but this instance of departure was awkward if not somehow reversed. Normally, the Enforcer was the one flying away from her view as she stood by within the Docking Bay Section to see him off before having to figure out how to turn around, put one foot in front of the other, and somehow make it back to his cabin without breaking into tears.
This time around, it was Lalia (by grace of the spacestation whisking her away) who happened to be leaving Boyd behind. Captain Borcuk had in fact honored the edicts of their pact and would not have betrayed the spirit of this agreement but for the circumstances having changed drastically - which was fair. She did not sense a double cross from her host but was not made privy to the reasoning behind or the reasons for this abrupt change in plans.
Was it uncertainty which beget the healthiest doses of hate for this tumultuous lifestyle? Though nothing in life was a surety, Lalia longed for mellower times but was not about to get sucked down into the fallacy of selfishly trying to change society for her own betterment. She was just being honest - perhaps a little realistic, as well, in her cynicism.
Lalia watched the planet fade away in the distance, but its memory was seared into her mind while Boyd remained on its surface - her man seared into her heart. She might not have gone around with twin LUNC's, combat gear, or a Class V Fighter; but there did not exist another person in all this universe who happened to be as similar to the Enforcer as her.
Both had come from modest - nearly identical backgrounds, but one had been ripped from his in order to protect family, and she had left hers in order to bring him back. Leaving this clandestine lifestyle behind would come at a price, so it was up to Boyd and Lalia to make the Space Force reconsider its willingness to charge that high cost. To do so, they could not become marred in the inevitabilities of universal progress or the sociological intricacies of comportment toward one's fellow person. Honestly, their situation offered a shared similarity to the scenario of being asked to become charitable when not even having enough resources to provide for one's own or oneself.
For those who were capable of hoisting the rest of the universe on their shoulders, Lalia wished more power to them. They could have it. She merely wanted a life with Boyd and without the discombobulation, so her ideological capital happened to be on a bit of a limited budget at the moment.
Everybody seemed to have a certain cause that they ascribed to which would allow other followers to rally around it, but many of these causes had indefinite ends. With all the heads that got put together and all the financial means that had been collected, the so-called charity was no closer to solving the problem but for attacking each and every individual symptom and pushing the finish line out further. Was the protracted goodwill really about achieving its original goal or prolonging its amassed base of created influence?
The answer to that question was what made Lalia's motives so pure. She was in it for herself. Most (if not the majority of) people were...despite what they said. This was not to say that there did not exist one person who truly wanted to help others. Her interpersonal commentary not only took a snipe at those with enormous bases who claimed to be righteous yet never seemed any closer to conquering what brought their structure of power together in the first place despite having more than enough support to achieve the intended outcome...but others who started off with a nobility in purpose and wound up becoming just like them.
It was not for Boyd or Lalia to police the universe or become its savior, even though that was the apparent aim of his current source of employment. They each just wanted her tears to stop flowing. Never more clearly seen than through the watery eyes that clouded her functional vision was the motivation which drove the Enforcer to survive time and again. This sorrow empowered him to do something about his predicament - whatever it took to bring her happiness.
This power which Lalia held over Boyd was really no different than the love that she had for him. In essence, her control was a byproduct of this love, and the reciprocal feelings that he possessed made them as cohesive a unit as any splinter group that the Enforcer had ever belonged to. People were right to fear their relationship and her whim in particular.
Although appearing selfish because of the brevity here in describing its portrayal, Lalia was the most selfless and giving person in Boyd's current life. She brought out his best and his darkest - all at the same time; so he would do anything to comfort her, use everything to protect her, and let nothing stand in his way of making her happy. There was no dragging this out. Those tears were not fake. The hopes and dreams of people throughout the universe were irrelevant. Only one respective person's interests mattered to either of them.
Hopefully, it would be enough. Lalia backed away from the window until her legs pressed against the bed where she sat down along its edge, still peering out at space.
The planet was gone from the range of her sight, and SpaceStation Konxerus was likely heading back to the heart of the Quadron System which featured the Space Force's currently anointed homeworld of Second Earth and a probable destination of Solstice Satellite - the most powerful stellar installation of this universe. Things were probably that bad.
She lay on her side, fixated on where Dio Qze used to be or might have been - just in its direction or the intent of such among the infinitesimal horizon which separated the position of this spacestation from her man's distancing location. Again lonely but not alone - not yet at least, a fetal position curl could no longer hold back the pressure in a quivering chest as a good cry and the ensuing haggardness of troubled facial features began to match the dispirited feeling in the pit of an emotionally empty stomach.
This outpour of Lalia's heart created a mental vertigo which sapped her will or ability to get back to her feet and stand steady albeit tall during the period of uncertainty. It never got any easier, and the longer that Boyd stayed on with the Enforcers, the more worried she became. Maybe in the first few years of performing black ops, he had gotten lucky. Nothing was to say that, in perpetuating the deadliest of occupations, his luck would continue to hold up on into the next few years.
Each subsequent mission pushed this luck, and if it were to run out, it would not have been because their was a lack of urgency on their part to change the direction of their life situation. They were so close to leaving this lifestyle behind. The taste of a new reality should have caused a rabid salivation to drool from Lalia's lips, but instead, the fear of the ultimate goal slipping away right at the end yanked out an emotional torrent from the flooded tear ducts in her eyes. Should Boyd return and see her like this - in this state, the ramifications could cause him to become hurried, rushed, and unfocused in enacting their overall plan; so she only ever let the Enforcer see the lesser extent to the varying degrees of her pain. But he was aware and could imagine.
Through the irony of compatibility, each of their weaknesses contributed mightily to the other's inner strength. Built from suffering, it was this strength which seemed to be limitless and had to be capable (of delivering them). For Lalia, that strength sustained her when food would not and coaxed her down to where she could eventually close her eyes and try to escape the waking nightmare of her fears within an uneasy couple hours of dreaming.