The thing about space is that it’s huge – or as Kolt would have said it’s ‘spacious’. So when Krolia found herself in a small fighter pod, alone in the vastness of space (save for the little kit snuggled warmly in her lap), she knew she was in for a long journey.
Her communications with the Empire fleet had gone surprisingly well, so well that she was nervous they were aware of her deception. Commander Prorok had seemed to accept her word as gospel, but he wasn’t very bright after all. Still it had come as a massive relief when she saw the fleet turn and head back the way they came, dozens of fighter pods being recalled to dock. She was one of them, Prorok insisted that she dock and give a more detailed report. If she complied, they would be stuck on this ship for an indeterminate amount of time, something that made her incredibly nervous. But on the other hand, to turn down a direct order would make her seem suspicious and it could bring her testimony about Earth into question.
In the end she decided it was in everyone’s best interest if she docked her pod. At least then she could eat, restock, refuel, and clean up. Half-breeds were not warmly welcomed by the Empire and as much as she hated to use that term, she knew that’s what Keith was. A half-breed, an impurity to be seen as ‘less than’ by all pure Galra; it made her sick, the Empire made her sick.
Krolia held her kit in her arms, desperately trying to think of a way to hid him for his own safety, when his little eyes fluttered open. She smiled down at him and he gave a wide yawn before smacking his little lips and blinking owlishly around the cockpit of the tiny pod.
“Mommy?” Was all he said but she knew what he meant. He was confused, waking up to a strange location with strange smells and the lingering salt of her tears in the air. “Daddy?” His little voice asked and he began searching over her shoulder. Her heart broke, fresh tears pricking at her eyes.
“No Keith, no Daddy.” She struggled to keep her voice steady; holding back the hitch in her throat as she softly spoke to him. Her hand moved up to pet his hair and he looked back to her.
“Because Daddy had to stay on Earth.”
“Because that is Daddy’s home.”
“Because Daddy is Human, and Humans live on Earth.”
“Why?” Ok she wasn’t going to get anywhere with this. Rolling her eyes she looked at him and his tiny little smirk, he looked so much like his father in that moment.
“You know what? Someday, when we come back, you can ask him yourself.” That seemed to satisfy his curiosity; smiling widely he climbed up the chest plate of her armour and gave her neck a little lick before nuzzling in. Purring away he clutched tightly to the unforgiving armour, there wasn’t much for his small hands to clasp but he somehow found a way.
The docking bay came into view and she realized she had been holding her breath. Guiding the pod inside the hangar, Krolia landed it safely and wrapped Keith in her arms, placing the purple kitty over him to hide his more alien features. When the pod opened there were only sentries to greet her. A welcome stroke of luck.
“Take me to the guest quarters; I require freshening up before I am granted a presence with Commander Prorok.” Krolia knew how to play these games, she knew he would listen to the sentry’s recording of her request and his arrogance would be tickled by her apparent desire to present herself well for him. It also made her sick.
Accepting her request the sentry marched her to a small room on one of the lower levels. Inside she found a single bed, a small desk, and a bathroom attached through a sliding door that was shared between hers and another room. She lay Keith on the bed and pulled the heavy blankets over his head, hiding him once again.
“Keith? Mommy will be back soon. You stay quiet, ok?” He nodded under the blankets and she placed her armour in a sterilization chamber before quickly taking a shower, staying true to her request of freshening up. Changing back into her now clean armour she left another light kiss in his hair and he squirmed, wriggling his way further into the blankets.
The door shut behind her and she followed the sentry down the hall of the ship. In the back of her mind she hoped no one went into her room to inspect it, she hoped Keith would stay quiet, she hoped he would stay put, but most importantly, she hoped he’d stay safe! The sentry rounded a corner and held the elevator for her.
The doors opened again to reveal the main bridge of the ship. Standing at the Captain’s seat was Prorok, his second in command directly beside him, and a crew of communication technicians seated at various consoles. She took note of how some techs shot her nervous glances and Krolia took great pride in knowing her reputation preceded her. Maintaining her stoic disposition, of which she was known for, she approached the Commander and gave a solute.
“Vrepit Sa, Commander Prorok.”
“Vrepit Sa, Krolia.” He gave her a quick once over before deciding something to himself. “You look well. Your pod was from my fleet, care to explain?”
She suspected he already had the details, that this was a test of her loyalties; he was seeing if she would tell the truth. “I crashed on a desert planet in system X-9-Y and became stranded for four deca-phoebs. Three scouts arrived not long ago, one crashed while the other two made safe landings. The two remaining scouts did not take my findings as truth and insisted on searching the hostile terrain for themselves. A creature on the planet killed one; the other was buried under the collapse of a cave. I managed to escape in the pod that had the most fuel in its reserve so that I may deliver my report.”
She was met with a long moment of silence before he spoke. “Your retelling of events checks out. We did indeed send three pods to into that system, one of which had begun a transmission before blowing up. A crash landing would certainly explain that. Tell me, was the planet inhabited by anything other than the mindless ‘creatures’ you mentioned?”
Another test, she could feel it. “Yes, Commander. The planet is inhabited by a furless bipedal race. They are incredibly primitive, barely possessing the technology to travel off their own planet.”
“Could they be a threat?” Again, she knew what he really wanted, she knew the attitude that most pure Galra carried regarding other species and it made her sick to speak of Kolt’s people this way.
She scoffed, “Perhaps in another 10,000 deca-phoebs they could throw a rock or two at us.” This garnered the desired response. Prorok burst out laughing and threw his arm around her shoulder.
“Oh Krolia your reputation does precede you. As lovely and quick witted as ever. Come; join me for dinner and I will return you to Central Command.”
“With all due respect Commander, I do not intend to return to Central Command just yet. I was sent on a mission of great importance over 4 deca-phoebs ago and I wish to take a pod so that I may return to commander Ranveig’s fleet and deliver my report.”
“You’re loyalty to your Commander will be rewarded. I will call Ranveig and let him know of your impending arrival. In the interim, you cannot leave on such a long journey without adequate rest and nutrition. Join me.”
“Commander, I appreciate the offer and will gladly accept for perhaps tomorrow night, however I request food be brought to my room so that I may eat and rest after my turbulent exit from the 3-8B system.”
He starred at her a moment before slumping his shoulders and letting out a huff of defeat. “Very well, it would cruel of me to deny such a reasonable request. I will have food sent to your chambers and you will be left to your privacy for the evening.”
“Vrepit Sa, Commander.”
The door to her empty room slid shut behind her and for a moment she felt a panic settle in. Where was Keith? Her heart rate skyrocketed and her breathing came in quick shallow spurts. “Keith?” KEITH?” She whisper yelled to the room, tearing the blankets off the bed.
“Mommy?” His small voice rolled waves of relief through her and she let out a sigh of pure bliss as the sight of familiar black hair poked up from behind the desk.
“Oh thank the Ancients!! Keith what were you doing back there? Don’t hide from Mommy!” Pulling him into her arms she laid a series of kisses to the top of his head.
“I wasn’t hidin’ from you mommy. I was hidin’ from the scary man.” And with those two words she felt her heart clench all over again.
“What scary man?” Krolia spoke in a soft but stern tone, implying the importance of the situation without scaring her little kit any further.
“The scary shiny man. He had blankets and that o’r there. Whassit fer mommy?” Keith pointed in the direction of a previously empty corner, where she noticed a small wheeled cart now stood. It would have been delivered by a sentry, which meant that Keith’s hiding spot was more than adequate; certainly better than hers had been when she first landed on Earth.
She smiled down at her little boy. If it had been an actually soldier they would have picked up on his scent and known he was there, but it had been a sentry; yet another stroke of unbelievable luck. It seemed his father’s sentiment had been correct, and as he used to say: “Keith was born with a big o’ horseshoe up his butt” - though she still didn’t fully know what that meant, she understood it to mean he was lucky. Oh sure, he got himself into more trouble than you’d think a 3 year old possibly could, and that’s saying something. But he always seemed to come out just fine, sometimes a little worse for wear but never any lasting damage.
His little eyes shone faintly in the dim room as he waited for her to answer him. “It is where they will put our dinner when it comes, which will be soon. Keith? Mommy needs to you go back to her hiding place ok? Go back there and stay low until Mommy calls you out. Can you do that for me?”
He nodded his head, black hair falling over his eyes in the process, and smiled brightly up at her. “Yes Mommy. I can do that fer you. Ya’ll gunna make me hide when the scary man comes back?”
“Yes Keith. I need you to hide every time the scary man comes. Can you promise me you will?”
“Yessum.” He called over his shoulder, already half tucked behind the desk.
Dinner came via sentry and she was bombarded by questions. “What’s that? Is it good? Can I try it? What’s that? What about that? And that? Will I like that? Will you eat it first? What’s that?” Sometimes a three year old is not the best travel companion she thought to herself as she tucked him in. Hopefully she could convince Prorok to let them leave tomorrow, but she highly doubted it. Yawning Krolia pulled out her communicator, setting it to contact Ulaz who she knew had been stationed near this region. She let her device attempt a connection for nearly 5
minutes dobashes before giving up.
Sighing heavily she leaned back in the desk chair. There was a whole part of her brain that she now needed to re train. Her time on Earth had her adapting to their language, their time measurements, their culture and she now needed to bring herself out of situational retirement and right back into espionage. Both her own, and her sons, safety depended on her ability to charm and deceive Prorok. Luckily Keith wasn’t the only one born wearing horseshoes. Was that how it went? Did it matter? She mentally face-palmed and chastised herself for letting little Earth references distract her. But she wouldn’t forget them, they were a part of Keith and she would hold onto them so that when he was old enough she could teach him some of his father’s culture. It would be useful for when they eventually make it back to see him. And they would make it back. She wouldn’t let anything stand in her way of reuniting with her mate. But she also understood that he had been right, Keith was safer with the Blades than he would be if the Earth’s Galaxy Garrison found him. It was more a matter of actually getting him to the Blades that was dangerous. Traveling through Empire territory with her Marmora blade on her hip, and a half-breed kit in tow, was a risk. But she would risk everything to get him to safety.
Dinner with Prorok had been an ordeal; it was tiresome trying not to vomit each time his arm wrapped around her shoulder. Under different circumstances she would have told him off but it wasn’t just her she had to lookout for, so she smiled along and pretended not to be utterly repulsed. The hardest part of the whole evening was trying to secure some food to bring back to Keith. One of the servers had exchanged an ‘I’m sorry you have to deal with this’ look with her and she had replied with an exaggerated eye-roll. A trust had started to form between them, the trust of those suffering the same hand, and Krolia decided to take a chance. She asked the girl if she could get a meat pie to take back to her room as she didn’t have much of an appetite during dinner. The girl had given a knowing smile and nodded quickly.
After the dinner was complete Krolia looked around but couldn’t find the young girl anywhere. With a slightly disheartened feeling she made her way out of the Commander’s dining hall and heard a faintly whispered call for attention. The girl from earlier handed her a small package with a meat pie, some berry puree, and 3 hydration pouches before disappearing back into the kitchens.
Smiling Krolia and watched Keith devour the meat pie. He had desperately tried to get his chubby little hands on the puree but she’d put her foot down; dinner first, then dessert. Begrudgingly he complied and within tics his entire dinner (puree included) was gone. The one good thing to come out of her dinner with Prorok was that she had managed to convince the buffoon to give her a transport pod instead of a fighter pod. This meant more space for supplies and a second personnel area where she could let Keith play without him getting in her way while she manned the controls. It also meant they were less likely to be targeted by rebels or be hailed by a passing fleet.
The next morning she made her way down to the pod she would be taking, watching the sentries load it will fuel and supplies. Keith remained in their room, she hadn’t handed it over yet; having insisted on one final shower and armour cleaning before departure. The best time to leave would be noon; most of the soldiers took lunch at that time, leaving the ship to be manned primarily by sentries. This meant she was substantially less likely to run into anyone with her kit in her arms if she left at time.
Satisfied with the provisions provided, Krolia headed for the bridge to formally thank Commander Prorok for his generosity. Pleasantries create allies, and allies could be useful in the future. He seemed to take her gratitude with great pride, and she internally rolled her eyes before heading back to her room.
This time Krolia pulled a heavily protesting Keith into the shower with her, scrubbing every last inch of the squirming boy’s body before finally letting him go. The brown, green, and white striped Earth onesie was hanging in the sterilization chamber, looking odd next to her armour. His naked bum scurried around the room and he giggled, slipping through her hands each time she made a move to grab him, clearly enjoying his perceived freedom. If they weren’t on a time limit she would have humored him a little longer, but as it was, they really needed to move.
Krolia walked the halls with purpose. She made it to her pod in record time and, without stopping, strolled inside to hide Keith in the second personnel area. She passed him his purple kitty and closed the door on his objections, resolving to snuggle him with an apology later.
After giving the pod a quick once over, she stepped out to address the sentry on guard. “The transport pod’s previsions are adequate enough to take me as far as the Datian system where I can refuel at the SpaceMall. Please pass along my continued gratitude to Commander Prorok.” The sentry delivered her message and signaled the approval for departure. “Vrepit Sa.” She saluted before stepping back into the pod and seating herself in the pilot’s chair in the cockpit. Initiating the launch sequence Krolia prepared to leave the fleet behind and begin her journey into open space. This would be the longest and most arduous part of the trip, and she would be making it with a toddler. Stars have mercy on her sanity!