“Commander,” Tom said softly, and Mathias nodded.
“I know, Colonel Jayne,” he said as he looked at the clock. Four hours and forty-two minutes. He had stayed longer than he should have—but still Sidewinder hadn’t turned up. And if hadn’t, then he couldn’t. And that meant two more irreplaceable people—two good people—were dead and gone.
Six Raptors other than Sidewinder had not returned from the mission, but Jester had confirmed that the Styx
had been destroyed—and that Sidewinder had all but rammed a Nova
with an armed nuke aboard; that ship had been destroyed as well. He had held out hope that the veteran pilot had jumped clear at the last moment—Mathias had held out that hope. But they had waited for two hours and forty-two minutes without a single contact on DRADIS. And the flotilla was waiting.
“Colonel Jayne,” he ordered with a sigh. “Spin up FTL Drives One and Two. Set coordinate for rendezvous with the flotilla. You have the Conn,” and he walked out of CIC.
“Aye, aye, Sir,” Tom said to his back. “I have the Conn. Spin up FTL Drives One and Two. Set coordinates for rendezvous with the flotilla,” he barked.
Mathias wandered through the ship corridors, but he did not head to his stateroom nor to his day-cabin. Instead he walked into the surgery. And he crossed the deck to the young woman under the covers, her eyes closed as she lay in the bed—and the other woman who held her hand.
“She’s sleeping, Commander,” Irina said. “Doctor Bako said she’s going to be just fine—the bullet didn’t hit anything vital.”
Mathias nodded and he looked down on Hope. And he smiled. “You did good out there, Digger,” he whispered. “You brought your squadron through without a single loss—sleep well.”
He turned to go, and then Irina’s voice stopped him. “Commander,” she said.
He turned around.
“You can stay—if you want.”
Mathias smiled a very tired smile. “Hope has you, Doctor Toure. That is all that she needs—take care of her.”
“I will, Sir.”
Mathias walked back out of the surgery and he shook his head. Stop this, he told himself. Yes, you lost people—good people. But there are more good people counting on you. And he turned to head to the research labs where Doctor Sarris and his team were working with Anders on plotting a course towards the other survivors. The other Resurrection Ships can wait for another day, he thought. For now—for now—my people need to know that their sacrifices haven’t been in vain.
And he marched through the corridors with a purpose.