This is the 132nd in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing. You can find out more about the challenge here.
Romancing of the Fighter, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 11th April 2013
Word count: 758
“Let me put this a way you’d understand,” Francis said, “I need room to manoeuvre.”
Robert stood there quietly, waiting for more, challenging Francis to go further, when he didn’t he asked, “Why?”
“Because this isn’t the life I wanted. Fair enough you got drafted, a lot of people did, but after the battle for Epsilon Eridani, most people quit and returned home. You went career without even talking to me.”
“They needed me,” Robert said, he was a man of few words, a trait he considered stoic, right now Francis just found it infuriating.
“I needed you,” Francis said, “I needed you, and you are barely here. Always off on some secret mission or another you can never talk about when you are home.”
“I understand,” and he really thought did, his colonel had warned of the hardships of a career in the defence force.
“I need space, and I need time. I need to find out if this is what I want,” Francis said quietly.
“I understand,” Robert repeated.
Two weeks later Robert was gone, he’d been out of contact for a week, Francis already knew that meant he was on mission again, and he was trying not to care, but he worried, he always worried. Pilots had short life spans, so many things to go wrong when you’re in and out of space constantly. Francis had seen the war documentaries, accidents had taken nearly as many lives as the enemy in the two years of the war.
There was an electronic chime from the door.
Francis somehow knew it was Robert, and in that moment he decided, he’d take whatever of Robert he could get, whatever the defence force left would be good enough for him.
“I’ve not changed the code Rob…” he said as the pressure lock broke and the door started to slide open, he stopped suddenly as he realised it wasn’t Robert. Instead in the door way stood sharply dressed in an even shaper uniform was Roberts colonel.
“Hello Francis,” the colonel said with a respectful nod, his expression serious and dire.
“Colonel Hallin,” Francis said extending his hand, still confused about military protocol in these matters. He’d never served, as a resource manager at the North Pole space port his role was already considered vital to the cause making sure the space, air, and ground defence forces were supplied. “What brings you here?”
“May I come in,” the Colonel asked.
“Oh, yes of course. Roberts not here though,” he paused, “Though you probably already know that. What’s up?”
“Its about Robert Francis,” the Colonel took a deep breath, “He died yesterday. Killed in action.”
Francis fell into the chair behind him, he suddenly felt numb, and he couldn’t seem to organise his thoughts to say anything.
The Colonel took a seat opposite, “It was quick. I can’t tell you much, but he was on a mission of vital importance to our security. His ship was discovered and they got to him in numbers before he could get out of there. I’m sorry.”
Francis was still in shock, and grief was quickly pouring in, threatening to engulf him.
“Francis, I know this is hard but I wanted to tell you myself. Robert was a hero,” the Colonel said. “Before he left for his mission he filled out a last will and testament, which is normal before a mission of this type, he left everything to you.”
And that was it, suddenly Francis couldn’t hold back the tears any longer. The Colonel shifted uncomfortably, not really knowing what to do.
After a few minutes, between sobs, Francis spoke again, “We split up, you know?”
The Colonel nodded.
“I was awful to him, I couldn’t take this life of his,” Francis said, “Why’d he leave me everything?”
“Because he was a smart man, because he knew how you felt, because he loved you,” the Colonel said, “He knew you’d get back together.”
“I only just realised, and then suddenly he’s gone,” Francis said fighting the tears. “I should have told him sooner.”
“Doesn’t matter,” the Colonel said, “He knew. And he knew he’d not done right by you, but being a patriot, protecting you was important too.”
“Thank you Colonel,” Francis said, “If you’ll excuse me I’ve got some calls to make.”
“I understand,” the Colonel said standing, “Someone from the General’s office will call with more details about what happens next, and what help they can offer, but my door is always open to you as well.”
Francis nodded, and the Colonel left.