The planet loomed majestically. Observing the huge blue marble from his viewport, Gooseman reflected that it was good to see his home planet again, even if it might be the last time he would ever see this sight.
"Can't take your eyes off it, can you?" Darkstar murmured softly as she came up behind him.
He shook his head in reply, not even surprised at her sudden appearance. He had had to develope near superhuman senses when it came down to it. In his line of work, everything made the difference between life and death. Fighting and killing had never been a pleasant fact of life, but as a SuperTrooper, Gooseman understood that it was all he'd been built to experience. For a long time, he'd believed that it was all he'd ever need in his life, and he became very, very good at the experience.
"Penny for your thoughts, Shane."
Gooseman smiled his sad little smile. "It's good to be home again."
"Mmm. I think you have something more serious in mind than homesickness."
He turned to face her, his smile widening. "I never could pull the wool over your eyes, could I?"
She waited silently, not rising to his baiting.
Pretty soon, he sighed inwardly and turned away from her. "There's no other way to find the answers," he said softly. "We have to come here, where it all began."
"We're not questioning your decision, Shane," Darkstar told him. "We all know that Nagata's the only one who holds the key to everything." She put a hand to his shoulder and squeezed gently. "What are you so afraid of? We all want the same thing, after all."
"Not 'Ray." He sighed again, this time in frustration. "All he wants to do is to kill him. He's given up on a chance at living. He just wants to have his little revenge." Unspoken was the thought that Gooseman had made a grave error at allowing Stingray to join them. At first, it'd seemed to be a good idea to have him. Stingray was one of the most experienced 'Troopers in the field. Gooseman had nearly jumped at the chance to accept 'Ray into their group. Within a short time, however, the younger 'Trooper began to have serious doubts as to the wisdom inherent in his decision. 'Ray was an excellent fighter, true; but he was also arrogant, quick to anger, and downright vicious. Equally clear was the fact that 'Ray had no qualms at all with ignoring Gooseman's orders and doing what he pleased. It took every ounce of wit and will to keep the remains of their group from disintegrating due to the petty infighting that went on almost every day.
Darkstar gave him a sympathetic smile. "Just a while longer," she whispered. "Hang on for just a while longer, Shane. Then we'll have all the years we want to make things work for us."
Gooseman couldn't hide the grateful smile that came to his lips. He wasn't even sure if he wanted to hide it from her at all. He turned to look at her, taking in her exotic visage as if it were life-giving water to his soul. For some reason, he couldn't think of the proper words to say. Not even the ones he wanted more than ever to tell her.
* * * * *