I see her shoulders tense, then one hand releases as the other arm swings out and round. Ashes form a plume on the wind.
“He’s gone, Darion. Free at last.” Essa blinks back tears as she smiles at me. There’s a release in her eyes, a relief and a parting. The peace she so desperately sought has finally found her.
She watches as I think, my reply lost in the churn of memories. The man she mourns had my back across thirty worlds and ninety campaigns. We held the line at Rokuna and were part of the rearguard at the retreat from Sebastien. I held him up after he lost a leg to Blemenase Marauders off Shiristan, forming a three-legged fire team those brutal, poetic bastards still sing myth-songs about. Barely a year later he carried me from the ruins of Depnu, leaving my arms behind.
Powered prosthetics with shield generators became our trademark. On Talkinur we went from military service to mercenary elite without a blink. That’s where we were when an air condit