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Badger Squadron


By Christopher M. Salas






Copyright © 2016 Christopher M. Salas

Bytiluna Publishing, LLC

Editing: Sam Knight

Cover art: Jason M. Montoya

Formatting: Bytiluna Pub Design

All rights reserved. No part of this book can be

reproduced without written permission by the author.






Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page

Acknowledgments

Ejuuya’s Eclipse

The Discovery

Translators Document

Before The Dawn of Unity

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Appendix

Play List

About the Author






ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

My deepest appreciation goes out to the following who have played a part in the creation of this novel–professional contributions and or endless support. Sam Knight, Jason & Ashley Montoya, Amy & Brandon Kessler, Mason Utico, Jim & Barbara Hevelone, Jeff McCloy, Solitaire Merrill, Stan Yan, Sam & Crystal Webb, Geri & Patrick Hirsch, Jules Sandoval, Stacey & Sean Vowell, Charles & Nina Carley, Noah Montoya, Nina Montoya, Dani Garcia & John Eddy, Matt & Dawn Jensen, Adam & Stephanie Johnson, Mike & Amanda Maricevic, Tim Jensen, Berta Lamm, Joe & Jennifer Wagoner, Salas family, Sandoval family, Romero family, Cortez family, Vigil family, Mollica family and YOU, the reader, for adding Badger Squadron to your personal library!






For Elsie S. Salas






Ejuuya’s Eclipse


Death came from the sky when the weapon of mass destruction hit Ejuuya. Our world trembled as darkness spread, killing every living thing in its path of annihilation. During the fatal outcome, the planet’s surface immediately turned black and fractured to its core. Millions suffered as they fused to the ground like molds of clay while structures became weakened and warped by the intense radiation. After the weapon’s detonation, the atmosphere polluted the horizon and the seas boiled to vapors. As the lethal transformation continued, a storm of ash spread far and wide, with dark clouds overcasting the entire planet. With the arrival of the darkness, the once habited world, rich with resources and life, had come to an end. After the radiation cooled and the toxins dissipated, the blackened scarred face of Ejuuya would never sustain life again. To this day and for millennia to come, Ejuuya’s moons, Tysuu and Yuupa, will be bearers of witness to a lifeless world.


The future holds a great and terrible threat that

will raise its ugly head in a shroud of darkness.

A threat that affects us and worlds to come.”


–Manduurin survivor of the Eclipse






The Discovery


During a science space exploration on the surface of Triton, one of Neptune’s moons, the scroll of The Fall Of Clyra was discovered. Within the wreckage of an extra-terrestrial spacecraft, seven deceased occupants of unknown origin and a damaged bluish-tinted translucent capsule were found. Although the capsule had been damaged, it protected most of the scrolls contained within. Along with the seven bodies, the scroll was sent to Earth for study at the Smithsonian Institution, where a team of six of the Earth’s most respected cryptologists identified and translated the text. Those who were chosen for the project were; Lena Schweitzer (Germany), Demetrio Ruiz (Spain), Matthew F. Bennett (United Kingdom), Akiko Katsukawa (Japan), Bryce Macfie (Scotland), and Michael B. Evans (United States). Five years into the scroll’s translation, the seven crew members were presumed beings of an ancient civilization known as Clordon.






Translators Document


Title: The Fall of Clyra text

Date: February 17, 2055

Facility: Smithsonian Institution–Washington, D.C.

Summary: After spending countless hours with this remarkable text in the last five years, we all agree that the language, although undoubtedly extra-terrestrial, is similar to the Hamo-Semitic language of the Middle Kingdom of Ancient Egypt. That is not to say that the linguistic and semantic elements are identical, only that they are strangely similar. Moreover, the scroll itself could not be dated as to how old this text has been in existence. Pages three to seven of the manuscript, containing chapters three through five, are lost. Therefore, the extant text starts on page one and then continues on page six. In many places, certain verses within the following chapters were unsalvageable due to their charred condition, and are thus deemed throughout as “missing”. The content is very fragmented; nevertheless, its historical significance is inestimable. Unfortunately, the following is the only historical evidence humankind has of the Clordon race and the decimation of their planet, Clyra. From our understanding, the unknown being known as “The Teacher”, the author of this extraordinary text, suggests what is written to be a warning. Could this warning of a centuries old galactic war of planets be a thing of the past, or could it be of what is to come? Whatever the result had been or may be, the text of The Fall of The Clordon should not be taken lightly, and needs to be considered as a cautionary warning to all mankind due to the nature of the scroll’s contents.

Topic: UFO, Extraterrestrial

Subject: Celestial text analysis

Category: Science, Space Exploration, Astronomy, Universe

Credited cryptology analysts: Lena Schweitzer, Demetrio Ruiz, Matthew F. Bennett, Akiko Katsukawa, Bryce Macfie, Michael B. Evans






Before The Dawn of Unity


The question many have asked themselves, are we alone in the universe, had finally been answered. The media kept constant coverage as Government officials from around the world gathered at various administrative institutions. People listened while others panicked of the possibility that one day Earth may be invaded by an evil alien race. Yet there were those who did not have an opinion. Although it was stated that the proof of what space shuttle Magenta’s science crew had discovered on the surface of Triton was factual, skeptics from around the world still speculated the possibility the translator’s document was nothing more than a false text.

As news reports continued, days after the first initial broadcast, the people of Earth turned to their TV screens and computer monitors as various networks aired interviews with the astronauts that took part in the discovery and press releases with the credited cryptology analysts, while extra-terrestrial type blogs and websites posted not only factual reports but also presumptuous and fictional documents.

It was weeks later that the governments of the world agreed to reveal the translated scroll and the seven extraterrestrial bodies to the public.






Three years after, mankind searched the stars.

Eleven years later, the Manduurin race made first contact…






Through the sky, beyond the clouds, and into the infinity of space,

we are as one. Resilient as we are brave, our wings soar eternally.

We are Badger Squadron.


–Major Rhiannon MacLauchlan






Chapter One




Earth Year: 2097

Galaxy: Milky Way

Star System: Skorba

Planet: Xissba

Location: South Sector, B’Xoon – (Day One of Reinforcements)

Airborne Division: 7th Battalion, 508th PIR 103rd Airborne

Infantry Mission: Enter Drop zone and secure Xulla Vhon border

Mission Status: Active


Death from above when they descended from the midnight sky.

“Medic!” a trooper yelled in the heart of battle.

Within the thick beads of a monsoon storm, enemy rounds buzzed through the air as troopers dived for cover onto the saturated ground. The drop zone was set grim by the aggressive weather, exchange of weapon fire, and the God-awful creatures storming their way into the fog of war. Fear was present in the minds of the troopers but bravery overpowered in their hearts as they continued to hold the line.

In the mix of chaos, a young trooper, the age of nineteen, tucked himself behind wreckage as enemy fire flew by. Pinned with nowhere to escape, the trooper looked up at the stormy sky and saw flashes of light in the clouds above the descending Paratroopers. “Explosions? Or is it lightning?” The fascination of what he was seeing turned his fear to amazement as he witnessed the sky light up like the fourth of July.

“What are you doing, Private? Keep firing!” Sergeant Lemming yelled at the gazing trooper.

Private Randle turned away from the clouds and peeked above the crown of the wreckage. He aimed, then quickly ducked as more enemy rounds hit the ground around him.

“SHIT!” he groaned. “I can’t see, Sergeant! The rain is too thick!” The young trooper took a deep breath and looked again with his rifle aimed to fire. “Christ!”

“What is it?”

Private Randle looked at the Sergeant with wide eyes.

Sergeant Lemming quickly crawled to Randle, stood up and saw what looked like the living end. “Hold the line and keep firing!” he shouted to the other troopers around him.

“No matter how many we kill, more keep coming!” another trooper shouted.

From within the smoke they came, a horde of Maradazza and with them, the Sucturamara saddled on Rekluses–large six legged spider-like creatures. Although, Maradazza and Sucturamara were one of the same by physical features, horns attached from the back of their heads, stitched eyes, and razor sharp teeth, the soulless beasts contrasted by the color of their florescent markings displayed on their carapaces. Without fear, they were Demonixa’s Infantry and Calvary.

“Naaccttuur naasshhmmiik!” the commanding Maradazza roared.

As a whole, the Demonixa rumbled deeper from within the fog of war with great strength and superiority. Both Maradazza and Sucturamara displayed their fury and ugliness not only with body mass but also their grotesque features. Cavernous mouths bellowed, showing razor sharp teeth, and each wielded a bio-neurotoxin rifle. The enemy was fearless and deadly with monstrosity. As they rampaged on, the harsh beads of rain splashed onto the beasts, accenting the colored stripes and blotches of their black carapaces.

“Stay down, and you won’t get hit!” Sergeant Lemming shouted.

“Don’t let them through! Hold the east and west flanks!” Lieutenant Colonel Braga ordered his troopers.

“Keep firing!” a trooper yelled.

Braga ejected the empty magazine from his rifle and quickly pulled a replacement from his pouch. “Demonixa are coming closer! Give ’em Hell!” he said, reloading his weapon.

The creatures roared and shrieked as they approached.

Braga lowered his posture to avoid being hit by oncoming enemy fire as he rushed to Corporal Booster. “Get HQ on the horn! We need air support ASAP!”

Explosions came from all directions, followed by screams, screeches, roars, and calls for medics.

Braga and Booster ducked for cover as shrapnel scattered everywhere.

“Right away, Captain!” Booster acknowledged Braga’s order.

It was not long after the eyeless beasts came into hand-to-hand range. As they continued to fight the Demonixa, either by firearm, an edged weapon, or with their bare hands, the troopers used and did whatever it took to stay alive in their attempts protecting the Xulla Vhon border. In hand-to-hand combat, it took two to three troopers for one Maradazza, but even then, they were too strong for a mere human and Manduurin. There was no time to think, only react as enemy fire and brute force as Demonixa advanced.

“Jesus Christ!” Private Randle yelled, holding his pistol with a trembling hand as a Maradazza rushed toward him. Before Randle could squeeze out a shot, the monstrous beast roared and took hold of the trooper’s arms, thrusting its horns into its victim’s chest, ripping Randle’s upper body with a violent jolt of the head.

A few feet away, a Manduurin trooper watched with terror as Randle’s body slid from the Maradazza’s blood dripping horns. “My Goddess,” he muttered with fear.

The Beast turned its head toward the pale blue skinned trooper and roared with its mouth agape, displaying its saliva coated, razor sharp teeth.

The Manduurin’s circular shaped eyes widened and, with a frightened yet courageous battle cry, he fired his rifle with unsteady hands at the roaring Maradazza lunging toward him. Dispersing every bit of ammo from his magazine, the Manduurin moved out of the way as the creature buckled and slid forward with momentum. The terrified trooper squeezed the trigger continuously with a twitchy finger while the creature lie motionless before him.

Elsewhere on the battlefield, an unfortunate trooper was sprawled and screaming for his mother while two medics desperately tried to cover his internal organs with gauze.

“It’s no use! He’s bleeding out faster than we can patch him up!” one of the medics stated.

A short moment later, the trooper stopped screaming and lie there lifeless with his eyes open.

“It’s curtains for him! We have to move on to the others!” the medic said to the other.

“Medic!” another trooper called.

The sound of explosions and numerous bursts of weapon fire trounced the countless desperate cries for help.

“Where in the hell are they?” the medic asked the other.

“Just go to the nearest wounded body!”

Elsewhere on the battlefield, a wounded trooper crawled in mud while picking through body parts trying to find his severed appendage. Oblivious to his surroundings, the trooper searched and, in a state of shock, could not recall where he had lost his arm. “MEDIC! I…” His voice sounded faint and his body was growing weaker from blood loss from his wound, “I … I can’t find my arm.”

High above the drop zone, wind blew fiercely and the thick beads of rain poured with fury. The paratroopers struggled to navigate their descent into the drop zone. Most landed successfully but there were many who were carried miles away by the gusty wind. Battling weather conditions and the beasts below, the troopers believed that very night was a start to a nightmare that would never end.

Moments after the last drop, shuttles lifted into the clouds and ascended miles above the planet’s orbit.

Braga and Booster supplied cover fire for Private Mulland and three other troopers as they ran for cover. Mulland expelled a forceful breath as he hit the ground. “Ca … can’t breathe.” He wheezed as he struggled for air.

“Stay down and gather yourself, Trooper!” Braga said, while replacing another magazine. “Anyone know where McDermott, Page, Dix, Muuk-Kuusu and K’luu-Vixx are?!” He cocked his rifle and continued to supply cover fire for other troopers.

“No idea, Colonel!” a trooper replied. “Has anyone seen Miller or Bott?”

“Miller here!” the trooper confirmed. “I haven’t seen Bott since before we launched!”

Private Miller ducked as enemy fire buzzed by and grazed his helmet. “Holy fuck! They got me! They got me!”

Braga lowered and skimmed his finger over the graze. “Your brains aren’t going to come out, Trooper!”

“Good Christ! I think I just pissed myself, Sir!” Miller openly announced to the Colonel.

“Pissing yourself is the least of your worries! Now get yourself up and keep firing, Trooper!”

“Medic!” a trooper called.

“They keep coming!” another trooper yelled.

“Where is my air support, Corporal?!” Braga asked.

Along the battlefield, with deceased Maradazza, Sucturamara, and Rekluse remains, bodies of troopers lie in grotesque forms like sacks of flesh. Those who were still alive suffered most as blood and liquefied bone marrow spewed from their wounds. Those who were still fighting heard the God-awful screams and cries for medical assistance coming from those out in the battlefield who were suffering from fatal wounds and dissolving innards.

“Keep firing!”

“MEDIC!”

“There’s more coming!”

“MEDIC!”

“Don’t let them through!”

“MEDIC!”

“They must not cross the Xulla Vhon border!”

“UZZKKEENN FAASSK, DEMONIXA!” The commanding Maradazza bellowed to the other soulless beasts of Dark Prince Carnmassicre Nixa as they stormed their way toward the border.






Chapter Two




Galaxy: Milky Way

Star System: Sol

Planet: Earth


Beads of water dripped from the spout of the showerhead and the shower curtain slid open. Steam clouded the bathroom with a light fog and the mirror above the sink displayed a sheet of perspiration. After wringing out the excess wetness from her hair, Major Rhiannon MacLauchlan grabbed a towel from the hanger. With a calming breath, Rhiannon wrapped the towel around herself and took a step out of the tub. Wiping the moisture from the surface of the mirror with her hand, the streaked reflection revealed a blurred image of a blue-eyed redheaded woman in her early thirties. Rhiannon stared deeply into the eyes of the reflection as the mirror became clearer, remembering every mission she had led her squadron on. The reflection stared back and as intensely, yet neither of them blinked. As the moment went on, Rhiannon eventually looked away, no longer reminiscing of the past but more of battles to come. She slipped the towel from her body and reached for her fleece robe on her way out of the bathroom. Tying the robe’s belt as she walked through the hallway of her apartment, Rhiannon heard a beep followed by a female automated voice coming from the living room.

“Major Rhiannon MacLauchlan, you have an incoming transmission,” the voice announced.

“Transmission received,” Rhiannon replied, entering the living room.

“Transmission active.”

A medium sized monitor placed at her desk activated, and a young woman in her early twenties, with the same color of eyes and hair as Rhiannon’s, appeared on the screen.

“Good evening, Sis,” the young woman greeted with a smile.

Rhiannon closed her eyes and gave an expression of guilt after she saw her sister wearing the cadet uniform. “Oh, Bridget.”

“What’s with the sad face?” Bridget asked.

Rhiannon opened her eyes and said, “I missed your graduation. I’m so—”

“It’s okay,” Bridget interrupted. “I heard about what’s been happening with planet Xissba, and I understand you have other things to worry about. Besides, the possibility of you being granted a leave would have been a zero.”

Rhiannon lowered her eyes from the screen. “Yeah. With the current situation that it is, a denied pass would have been the case.”

“No worries, Sis.” Bridget smiled and placed her hand over her heart. “You were with me all along.”

Rhiannon looked up at the screen and gave a smile of reassurance. “That means a lot, Bridget,” Rhiannon returned.

“Mom and Dad were there, and they send their love.”

“Sending my love to them as well.” Rhiannon continued her smile. “How was your graduation?”

“It went well. Cadets Freyja Lewis, T’saa-Mii, and I graduated the top of our class.” Bridget gestured a sitting happy dance in her chair with her arms slightly up in the air. “It pleases me to say that I am now an Airman.”

“Fantastic!” Rhiannon clapped her hands.

“Mom and Dad are so proud,” Bridget added. “They wanted me to know they’re very proud of us both.”

“I’m glad.”

“Even though they’re happy to see what we’ve accomplished, I know they worry about us.” Bridget adjusted herself in her chair. “I saw it in their eyes when I made my speech at the podium.”

“All parents worry about their children,” Rhiannon said. “I’m sure we’ll experience the same feeling someday too.”

“Yeah,” Bridget nodded.

“Are you going to take full advantage of your two weeks leave?”

Bridget shook her head. “Our two week leave was revoked. Immediately after the ceremony we received our orders.”

“So soon?”

“With the war going on, yeah. Our orders are to report to Colonel Lii-Paa and start training on the new fighters. First simulations flights, then, six weeks later, practice missions in the new fighters.”

“I’ve heard the brightest minds of The Corps have developed new fighters. The most advanced fighters in the fleet.”

Bridget nodded. “What I’ve heard from the grapevine, the F-71E Specters have the speed capability of Mach nineteen.”

“You don’t say?”

“And get this,” Bridget continued. “The fighters also have the capability to Event Horizon.”

Rhiannon’s brow slightly lifted. “Is that so?”

“But these claims could be nothing more than just rumors,” Bridget shrugged.

“If what they’re saying is true, a fighter to have that kind of capability, to reach other solar systems anywhere in the galaxy without help of a space carrier, would be astronomical. The advantage would no doubt give The Corps the upper hand. Not only in the skies but also the war.”

Bridget nodded slowly. “Right?! The F-71E just might give Wraiths a run for their money. Wouldn’t you agree?”

“No doubt,” Rhiannon replied.

“Training starts tomorrow at o’ five hundred and I’m excited to say the least.”

“I can see by your expression.” Rhiannon mildly chuckled. “I had the same feeling when I graduated from the Flight Academy and sat in the F-88 Scorpion for the first time. It was exhilarating.”

“Speaking of, when do you ship out?” Bridget asked.

“O’ three hundred tomorrow.”

“Are the Badgers prepared?”

“As prepared as we can be,” Rhiannon assured. “Even though this next mission will be our twelfth, I’m still a bit nervous.”

“You’ll do fine, Sis. You all will.”

“Thanks for the confidence, Bridget.” Rhiannon winked. “To this day, I still get pre-flight jitters. I guess it’s my way of making sure I’m at my best, I suppose.”

“Perhaps,” Bridget said. “Maybe someday we’ll fly side by side and save the galaxy together. It would be like a Wonder Woman and Wonder Girl team up, but without invisible jets.”

Rhiannon looked away from the screen and laughed.

“Right?! How epic would that be, huh?” Bridget’s voice raised a little due to her excitement.

“Beyond epic,” Rhiannon said, leaning forward closer to the screen and assuring her sister. “I promise you, Bridget, together we fly someday.”

Bridget’s enthusiasm rose a little more as she was about to say something but was interrupted by voices entering the room.

“What’s taking so long?” A female voice came through Rhiannon’s screen speakers followed by another female voice asking, “Who are you talking to, Bridget?”

Bridget looked past the screen. “My sister.”

“Oh?” one of the voices replied.

Bridget looked back at the screen as two cadets came into view and stood behind Bridget.

“Freyja Lewis. T’Saa-Mii. My sister Rhiannon,” Bridget introduced.

“Hello. It’s nice to meet you, Major,” Freyja waved.

Rhiannon waved back.

“It’s an honor to finely meet you, Major,” T’Saa-Mii said with enthusiasm.

“Yeah?” Rhiannon came back.

Bridget pointed toward her Manduurin friend’s direction and said with a little chuckle, “T’Saa-Mii’s a Badger Squadron fangirl.”

“Is that right?” Rhiannon’s eyes shifted to the Manduurin female’s image. “I had no idea we had a fan base.”

T’Saa-Mii’s round eyes blinked coyly as she smiled at Rhiannon and said, “Yes I am a fan, but truth be told, the Badger Squadron pilots are legendary for their air battles.”

“Stroking the ego much.” Freyja teased her Manduurin friend.

T’Saa-Mii narrowed her eyes at Freyja then looked back at the screen with a nicer expression.

“Thank you very much for the kind words, T’Saa-Mii.” Rhiannon reciprocated with a humble smile. “We strive to do our best.”

Bridget looked at both of her friends. “Could you give use a few more minutes?”

Both Freyja and T’Saa-Mii nodded then waved to Rhiannon.

Rhiannon waved back. “Good luck with your training, and I’ll see you both in the skies soon.”

Bridget looked away from the screen and watched her friends leave her quarters. After the door slid closed, Bridget looked back at the screen and mentioned, “I’m surprised T’Saa-Mii didn’t volunteer how much she crushes on Lieutenant Smitz.”

“What? Really?” Rhiannon came back surprised.

“Yup. She thinks Lieutenant Smitz is the most handsome human on the planet.” Bridget continued by adding, “It was the first time I ever saw a Manduurin blush when she told me about her crush.”

“How adorable is that?” Rhiannon said warmly.

Bridget leaned forward and said in a lowered tone, “But we’ll keep this between you, me, and the transmission screen.”

“Rest assured, my lips are sealed.” Rhiannon gestured a zipping motion with two fingers over her lips. “If word got out about a secret crush I had for someone that I didn’t want anyone to know about, and it happened to spread through gossip without my approval, I would be humiliated.”

“Speaking of crushes,” Bridget said abruptly.

Rhiannon paused.

“I don’t have much time, but I have to get the latest news before I go.”

“News about?” Rhiannon asked knowing well what her sister was hinting at.

Bridget folded her arms and looked at Rhiannon as if her sister was hiding something.

Rhiannon briefly looked away from the screen.

Bridget kept her position and waited for her sister to answer.

Rhiannon’s eyes went back to the screen. “Are you referring to Commander Lawrence?”

“Uh-huh.” Bridget nodded. “The would-be love of your life.”

Rhiannon leaned further back in her chair with her arms crossed. “Your friends are waiting for you.”

“They can wait.” Bridget smirked. “Now tell me.”

“There’s not much to say.” Rhiannon unfolded her arms. “Anom…” Rhiannon paused for a second then corrected herself. “Commander Lawrence and I are still at that ‘we know we’re both interested but who will make the first move’ stage.”

“So, what’s holding you back? You both established your interest.”

“Yes. But—”

“Uh-huh,” Bridget interrupted. “Is it because of his rank? I know it isn’t his looks.” She dramatically overplayed her interpretation of her sister as she quoted, “His brown eyes, his black hair, the little dimple on his chin.”

Rhiannon gave Bridget a crooked look. “Yeah well—”

“Descriptions from your own words. Must I go on?”

“No. Point taken.”

“Question is,” Bridget continued, “who will take the initiative and step up?”

“When did you become Miss Love counselor?” Rhiannon asked, smirking with amusement.

“You just need that extra nudge, that’s all.” Bridget winked.

Rhiannon gave Bridget that older sister knows best look and said, “I appreciate your concern for my love life, but I think I can handle it just fine.”

“What are sisters for?” Bridget shrugged and smiled.

The sound of the door opening caught Bridget’s attention and she turned from the screen.

“We’re gonna be late,” Freyja said with her voice lowered.

“I’ll be right there,” Bridget nodded.

The door slid closed.

“I better let you go,” Rhiannon said as Bridget was looking back at the screen. “Your friends are getting restless.”

“That’s an understatement.” Bridget shook her head and lightly chuckled. “Be safe out there. Mom and Dad aren’t the only ones who worry about you, ya know.”

“I will. You be safe as well.” Rhiannon gently smiled. “I love you Little Sis.”

Bridget returned the gesture. “Love you too.”

“End of transmission,” the automated voice announced after Bridget’s image was replaced by a black screen.


* * *


First Lieutenant Catalina Bromfield sat tucked in her boyfriend Jeremy Galloway’s arms as both stargazed into the summer night sky from Gold Camp Road Lookout. Between the stars above to the citywide view of Colorado Springs below, that very moment set mood to a perfect end to the romantic couple’s evening before Catalina’s departure. Without any words exchanged, both Catalina and Jeremy took comfort from crickets chirping within the quietness of their surroundings.

“I hope you enjoyed the evening, Catalina?” Jeremy broke their silence, looking down with his arms still wrapped around her from behind.

Catalina closed her eyes briefly and tucked herself even closer to him. “Perfect. Everything was … is perfect.” She opened her eyes opened and continued to gaze at the sky.

Without a word, Jeremy gave her a light squeeze of the arms and took a breath. It was more of a nervous breath and he hoped that Catalina didn’t notice.

“Why is your heart beating like a rabbit?” she asked, her back pressed to his chest.

Jeremy slid his arms from her.

Catalina sat up and turned to face Jeremy. “Are you okay?”

“I know you will be millions of light years from here, but—” He paused.

“What is it?” Catalina’s voice sounded a little concerned. “Yes, I will be millions of light years away, but I will be back. Hell or high water, I’ll be back.”

“That’s not what I’m worried about. You’re very good at what you do.”

“Yeeaahh.” Catalina gave him a queried expression then asked, “What’s making your heart beat so fast?”

Jeremy put his slightly trembling hand with a white gold engagement ring lightly held with the tips of his fingers. “Catalina Bromfield, will you marry me?” He looked into her eyes and smiled anxiously.

Catalina’s surprise was shown by her expression as her eyes widened toward to the ring. Her mouth stretched to a grin and she hugged him as tight as she could. “Yes! I will marry you, Jeremy Galloway!”

“I was worried you would have said no.” Jeremy sounded relieved.

Catalina let go of him. “Deep down you knew that wouldn’t have happened.”

Jeremy took her left hand and slid the piece of jewelry onto her ring finger. “I know the diamond isn’t as big as I wanted, but this is all I could afford at this time.”

Catalina looked at the ring displayed on her finger then back at her now fiancé. “I don’t care how big it is, Jeremy. The size of a diamond doesn’t matter, your love for me does.”

He took her by the chin, kissed her then said, “My love for you is far beyond comprehension.”

They looked deep into each other’s eyes in their moment, then kissed once again.

Jeremy opened his eyes. “Come back to me safely.”

“Promise, I will,” Catalina assured. “Even though we will be far apart, it will not be forever.”

“I await your arrival, Lieutenant Bromfield.” Jeremy tucked her in his arms.



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