The hull quaked from another near miss. The extraction was going poorly and years of such times told him this would be the day. The only mission he would ever choose himself, a choice where none would stand in the way. Gathering his skinsuit, Okai slid into the uniform, firming his taut but ageing frame. He had known this day was close, everything long arrayed with particulars in place.
He paused, giving a slow review of the bunk booth he had know for a nearly half a lifetime, solitary and alone; there was no need of quarters with empty beds, sisters and brothers long dead. Be it skill or chance, he lingered on, fought when asked and waited quietly until needed again.
Recently though, this solitary vigil was broken. An upstart young shas’ui, a fellow sa’cean had somehow drawn him out. Made him mentor to innumerable questions, tactics and even anecdotal stories. Friendly shadows which always stalked Okai, either watched on or retreated. As much fascinated as he, that someone should be so interested in an ageing outcast.
He placed a small hand written note under his regular critique upon Ara’s telemetry. Given the young shas was so aggressive, she may not know a day such as this. Okai’s face drew taught, then again, her skill may just bring her as far as he had come. He patted the note softly, then turned away.
Leaving all behind, Okai proceeded down the hangar corridor. Returning pilots bustled past, faces drawn and tired. The fight to hold back the invaders was clearly proving difficult, the refugees far below likely to be stranded if nothing drastic was done. Some saw him and moved aside respectfully, others barely gave him note. It didn’t bother Okai, he had given up remembering faces and names, there was no merit in it for him, except Ara.
Stepping into a busied hangar through a blast door, Okai spied the worn XV8 xor’vesa cabled against a solitary launch rack. Surrounded by sleek and rounded XV9 battlesuits, it stood alone and ignored, mimicking the only pilot who wore it. A slight shift in Okai’s thoughts through his link and the war machine flexed into life. A listless sensor head snapped up sharply to regard Okai as he approached. It dipped a little, the long synced AI recognising and understanding. Time to give it’s all and never come back.
Okai slid into the chest, felt the warmth and smiled, patting the interior. Weapons began to charge beyond specification, the reactor was unleashed;
Checking the energy limiter, experience agreed. Containment would fail any time after then. Let it be with them standing, PACs firing.
The heavy PACs slid over the shoulder mounts, plasma rifles affixed to forearms and every sensor awoke. Okai drew in the tang of the hangar bay with a false breath, then nodded. The suit sealed him in. No techs interfered, there was no need on such a finely honed and maintained suit of yore.
Filled with every combat stimulant known to tau science, a cold wave washed over Okai; suicidal levels of dosage, but he cared little. What an amazing state of mind to fight in, even Uro and Kiras smiled back in agreement, shadows drawing toward him.
Flexing as one with the suit, Okai stepped out. He stomped through a torrent of vesa and tau, rushing in from the fight, away from the war; survivors for another day. A few stopped, recognising the war machine that moved against the flow; they stood quietly and bowed lightly toward the lone b’saal striding between Orcas and refugee transports.
“Shas’O” Okai spoke into the combat net.
“La’rua Okai is deploying”
“Understood, await drop craft. I’ll direct-”
“No time, no extraction requested. Get everyone away, I’ll hold the line”
After a long pause the younger tau spoke up, “..Understood, ride far Vre’Shi Ran Or Sa’Cea Okai.”
The lone suit came to the edge of the vast hangar, a world below flickering with explosions, reflecting a myriad of patterns across the hull of the massive starship. The jump would be at the upper limit of Okai’s free fall capability, but it could be done.
[Shas’vre, you are being hailed]
Turning away from the cavernous maw of the opening, Okai could see a lone tau running through the crowds. She paused, regarding him with pleading eyes. He saw Ara say his name, the note clutched tight to her side. She was half out of her combat skin, sweaty and drawn, fresh from the fight below. Without realising he had waved ever so lightly with his forearm manipulator; Okai clenched it tightly, drawing it back.
“Who is that Okai?”” whispered a long silent voice from the shadows.
“Ara, my friend”
“You’re upset” spoke another shadow.
“I’ll miss her, I miss you all”
[Thirty six raik’or]
“Come Okai, fight with us” implored his siblings.
“I’m coming Jarui, just..” the monat lingered.
Ara watched Okai draw back a wave, move on then turn slightly to regard her for a long moment. Ara’s chest drew tight as the suit turned away and stepped out falling from view; she didn’t even recall shouting out in anguish. Rushing to the edge quickly enough, she spied the lone battlesuit roll out and expertly free fall through the upper clouds, the silhouette of a warrior of old, swords drawn. She gripped the note tightly, looking for him long after he was gone from view.
I hope you never come to understand why. Sharing of memories, with ghosts only you can see. Slowly robbed of life, drawn out and old, Wondering if it will end with just a sigh. See me as free.
No longer waiting for what I am doled. I chose where I finally lie, To an end, only I will see, Taking one last victory, forever bold.