Arriving at my ship, I am met by a maintenance crew member. “That'll be 1,000 ruplets.”
“What the frack!?! I said just look for immediate things!” I protest, eyes wide in outrage.
“Your core capacitor was on the fritz, and your dive engine was arcing black matter... it was quite serious,” the crew member explains.
Fracking frack frack! There goes my whole fracking check in one go!
Frustration and defeat cloud my eyes as I grumble, rubbing my face.
The worker hands me a tablet. “I'll need you to sign these release documents, making the repair official.” With a reluctant growl, I sign the tablet before the worker presents a photo of me.
“Can you sign that one too? Please?” he asks nervously.
… Are you serious, guy?
I sigh, studying the photo. It's one from my past, receiving one of the highest honors of my career in a ceremony.
“Sir Kayden? Are you alright?” The maintenance worker's concerned voice snaps me back to reality.
I’ll be fracking fine, just poorer and grumpier.
I sign the photo and shove it back into his hands before heading to my ship.
As I scroll through my database, a projection of an aged Cyril, Lieutenant General Briggs, appears on the screen.
“Kayden Royal, I've uploaded your new list of wanted criminals based on priority of threat level. Mild are in yellow, dangerous are in orange, and severe are in red. It's routine…” Briggs pauses, his gaze intense. "Just like I do for the Guardians."
Of course, you went there, sir…
“I'm not a Guardian, not anymore, Lieutenant General Briggs,” I reply, my voice wavering slightly.
Briggs meets my eyes with a solemn expression. “You're wasting your talent, Kayden—you should come back to us.”
I can’t, sir.
“But I broke the codex,” I argue, my voice heavy with regret.
Briggs lowers his gaze. “That incident was… a tragedy… but times have changed, Kayden. The top brass is forgiving… more so now than ever in these desperate times of need,” he explains.
Seriously? I think to myself.
I hesitate, my voice barely above a whisper. “So, it's true? The ban has been lifted off my Guardian license?”
“Yes. Officially as of this morning,” Briggs confirms.
I honestly don’t know what to say. My mind races with uncertainty.
A moment of silence hangs between us as my eyes drift to my console before meeting Briggs' gaze again. “I'll keep it in mind. How's that?”
A faint smile tugs at the corners of Briggs' lips. “That's all I ask for.” With that, the comms cease. I pull up the list of criminals, noting seven names: four in orange, one in yellow, and two in red.
Yeah… it is just like old times.
I set a course away from the station and head to bed.
As I sit there, gazing forlornly out the window, my mind whirs with the uncertainties before me. The offer from Briggs plagues my mind, the possibility of regaining my lost honor and purpose.
Is it possible? Do I still have what it takes?
Slowly, my fret deepens as my insecurities and doubts circle in my mind. And eventually, my mind falls on the one person I can think of to steer me clearly.
“Creator, help me…” My voice is nothing but a whisper. I look out and watch the swarming nebula, taking in the magnificent and otherworldly sight of the soft blue and purple mix of colors. “I… I don’t know what I should do.”
I close my eyes, leaning back as I lay Lil Manx against my chest. I grimace, my hand flexing into a fist as I grip the sheet with frustration. “Please… give me a purpose and a reason for still being the one left alive.” My eyes glisten with moisture, longing, dread, and fear alight in them. “Show me what I should do from here.”
Lil Manx lets out a soft coo, rustling awake as he hears my soft prayer. Slowly, he crawls up to me and nuzzles under my chin. A soft smile forms on my lips as I gently stroke his fur, welcoming the Furrble into my grasp. “Chiip…”