Hale hung from the end of a line dangling out a Mule’s open cargo bay. The Mule hovered half a mile above the bottom of the Great Expanse and dangerously close to the cliffs that made up the edge of the valley.
“Don’t look down,” Hale repeated to himself several times. He swung his body back and forth, building momentum as the swings brought him closer and closer to the cliff face. He reached for the rock and his fingertips managed to grab a handhold.
The cable attached to his waist and feet pulled him back from the wall with terrifying slowness and surety.
“Got some crosswind coming in, hold on tight,” the pilot said. Hale felt a slight buffet of air, then the wind howled around him. The gale sent him spinning away on his line like a wayward top.
“Reel him in!” Torni shouted.
“I can’t! The line’s twisted,” Standish said.
The wind subsided and Hale found himself swinging toward the rock wall with more speed than he thought he could handle. He spread his arms away from the line and slammed into the cliff, his armor absorbing most of the blow. His hands raked over the rock and found purchase. He ran the edges of his boots against the cliff until they secured a foothold.
Hale hugged the wall with more strength and genuine affection than he thought possible.
“Sir, you good?” Torni asked over the IR.
“Uh-huh,” Hale pressed his visor against the rock, mashing his face against the reinforced plastic.
“Don’t let go.”
“You think?” Hale grabbed an auto-anchor from his chest harness—a small spike of metal attached to a carbon-fiber line that ran to his belt—and pressed the tip against the rock face. The screw came to life and bore into the cliff. He heard a thunk as the spurs deployed on the screw, increasing the amount of weight the screw could hold should he fall. He attached two more screws into the wall, then detached the line to the Mule from his waist.
“Standish, your turn,” Hale said.
Hale clutched the wall, praying that Standish wouldn’t have the same trouble he did.
Less than a minute later, Standish swung up to the wall, level with his lieutenant, grabbed the wall with ease and anchored himself without incident.
“Dang, sir, why you always got to make things look difficult?” Standish asked as he detached the line leading to the Mule.
“Just get the torch,” Hale said. “Mule two-nine, we’re secure. Do a recon around the pass. Make sure no banshees get through.” The ship pulled away slowly, then banked into a low cloud.
“One stone torch coming right up.” Standish pushed back from the rock and grabbed a handle on the tiered device the size of a manhole cover strapped to his back. “Ready on three. One…two…three.” He swung the device to Hale, who grabbed it by a handle on the other side.
They slapped it against the cliff. Spikes attached to the torch snapped into the rock. Red warning lights lit up across the device.
“Look away,” Hale said. He followed his own advice and felt the cliff shudder as the torch began its work. Stone torches were a natural by-product of asteroid mining. Drilling into asteroids was problematic. The ejected material proved hazardous for navigation and some asteroids had a bad habit of fracturing from a drill’s vibrations. Melting a hole into an asteroid with focused lasers and heat shunts to determine its composition (and whether the rock was worth mining) was seen as a huge improvement for the industry. Naturally, the military found an application for the technology.
A column of vaporized stone poured from the hole like steam from a locomotive as the torch moved at a downward angle into the cliff side.
“Think it’ll go deep enough?” Standish asked.
“Doesn’t have to go that far. The nuke will follow the same principle as a firecracker in your hand. Firecracker goes off on your palm, you get a little singed. Wrap your fist around it and you’ll lose fingers when it pops,” Hale said.
The vapor subsided and three long buzzers sounded from the hole. The stone torch had reached an optimum depth.
“We’re in business,” Hale said. He pulled a tube set in a wire frame from off his belt and held it up to the hole. He hit a button on the tube and the frame snapped out to touch the sides of the hole.
“Nuclear device activation code: Kenneth Alpharius Hale X-ray one-two-seven-two-two-niner,” Hale shouted, his voice competing against a howl of wind.
“Authorization accepted,” a pleasant-sounding woman’s voice said. “Specify detonation criteria, command or timer?”
“Timer. Three-zero minutes.”
“Nuclear detonation in thirty minutes, confirmed?”
The nuke slid down the hole with a hiss.
“Sir, this is Torni. We’ve got a situation.”
Standish’s eyes went wide as he looked into the hole where the nuke had already slid into darkness.
“Go, Torni,” Hale said.
“We’ve got civilians out there, looks like a couple dozen coming by foot,” she said.
Hale groaned and thumped his head against the wall. “Are they to the east or the west of the blast site?” Please don’t say east, he thought.
“East. They’re on the wrong side of our demo work,” Torni said.
“The nuke is set. Come retrieve us. We’ll work out what to do about the civilians after that,” Hale said.
The two Marines clung to the cliff, wind blowing pebbles loose.
“You don’t need to work it out, do you, sir?” Standish asked. “We’re going to go get them, bring them back to New Abhaile.”
“And how do you know that, Standish?”
“You and the skipper are almost the same person. You can’t let the innocent suffer, not if you can do something about it.”
“Am I wrong?”
“No. I think about Earth a lot, everyone Ibarra left behind. If you had a chance to go back and save one more person—don’t care who it was—I know you’d have risked it. And I’d be right there behind you. These Dotok, they aren’t so bad. Kind of friendly in a stuck-up sort of way. If we can save more, that’s almost like saving a human, right?”
“I don’t see them as being that different from us. They’re scared, they love each other…they don’t want to die. If we bring them back to Earth, they’ll help us fight the Xaros,” Hale said.
“Not like we don’t have enough room on Earth. Imagine that, a Dotok city. Up in Utah, maybe. You think they’ll make statues of us? ‘Here is the great Paul Standish, hero of Takeni and our savior from genocide.’”
“They don’t seem like statue-building kind of people,” Hale said.
“Yeah, more modern-art types. Wait … your middle name is Alpharius?”
“My father’s idea, don’t ask. I wasn’t consulted. You keep that secret between us, understand?”
“Sure thing, sir. You can always count on me to keep my mouth shut,” Standish said.
Their Mule emerged from the clouds.
Crewman Daniels bent at the waist and stretched his hamstrings. He re-tied the shoelaces on his running shoes and ran in place, bringing his knees up to his chest and slapping them against his palms. Ericcson stood next to him in her void combat suit, at odds with his physical training clothes.
“You ready, Daniels?” Ericcson asked.
“Ma’am, why am I doing this again?” Daniels asked. His Welsh accent was thick, but not so bad that Ericcson couldn’t understand him.
“Because you are the fastest runner on this ship and the lowest-ranking sailor. You’d get this assignment for both those reasons. You can pick whichever one makes you feel better,” Ericcson said.
“But Tavish in gunnery control ran in the bloody Olympics!”
“Tavish is dead. He was in gunnery control when the banshees boarded us, remember?”
“I can’t be the lowest-ranked sailor. Didn’t…didn’t…?”
“You got drunk and urinated all over a security robot attempting to issue you a citation for disturbing the peace. You caught a Captain’s Mast for that and he knocked your rank down to Seaman Apprentice. Whale shit is higher up the chain of command than you are, Daniels. Maybe you think about this situation the next time you want to get drunk on shore leave.”
“If I survive this, I’m definitely drinking again,” Daniels said. His eyes kept wandering to the heavy iron door in front of him.
“Explain the plan to me, one more time,” she said.
“You open the door to that banshee thing. I get its attention and have it chase me up the hatch to deck twelve. I hit the lifeline, Bob’s your uncle, all done,” he said.
“Of course I’m scared. I’d shit me pants but I got nothing left in there,” he said.
“Good, that’ll make you run faster,” she said.
“Put a bottle of beer at the end of this race and I’d light the damn deck on fire gettin’ there so fast,” he mumbled.
Ericcson stepped through a different door and shut it behind her. The sound of it sealing shut sent shivers down Daniels’ spine.
“Ready? Opening the outer door now. Cage opens after that,” Ericcson said over the intercom.
Daniels squatted down and jumped back up, feeling blood rush to his muscles.
The door in front of him rolled to the side. Down a narrow corridor of reinforced armor plates purpose built for this operation was the ammunition cargo container holding the captive banshee. The container’s walls had been dented from the inside, like the banshee had systematically searched for a weak point in the construction.
Daniels whimpered as the latches came free and the container door opened, revealing darkness.
“Come on, you big ugly,” Daniels said.
There was a low rumble from the void. Daniels saw the thing’s claws first as it reached past the edge of the container. Yellow eyes floated through the darkness.
“Hey! You! The one with a face like a kicked-in shitcan!” Daniels grabbed his crotch. “How about you come over here and give me a wristy, you ugly wanker?”
The banshee let loose a blood-curdling scream and charged straight for Daniels.
“Bad idea! Bad idea! Bad idea!” Daniels turned and ran down the passageway, his arms and legs pumping like pistons as he raced to a pair of handcuffs dangling from a chain out of a hatch cut out of the ceiling.
He heard the banshee slam into the corridor behind him and beat at one of the welded-shut doors. His heart pumped battery acid as he got closer and closer to the cuffs. All he’d have to do was attach them to his wrists and he’d be safe—that was the promise.
The banshee roared and tore after Daniels, who suddenly realized what a gazelle felt like when a cheetah was on its tail.
Daniels skidded to a halt and reached for the cuffs, just as his feet slid out from under him. He slammed to the deck and jumped back up and made the mistake of looking back at the banshee. The thing moved with an almost leonine grace, its eyes set on Daniels and murder.
He got one of the cuffs snapped tight against his wrist.
“Go! Now!” He fumbled with the other cuff and the banshee got closer by the second.
The chain went taught and pulled him into the air. The banshee’s claws barely missed his shoes as it overran his position.
Daniels laughed, ignoring the pain in his wrist as he went higher through a ventilation shaft. He looked down…and didn’t see the banshee. His ascent stopped, leaving him dangling from the chain.
“Hey! This wasn’t the plan!” he shouted. One of his shoes came loose and fell down the shaft. It thumped against the deck, and the banshee picked it up. The creature looked up the shaft and snarled.
“Hey! Come on! This isn’t funny!”
The banshee climbed into the shaft and made for Daniels with all the ease of a squirrel moving up an oak tree.
The dark airshaft had a built-in design feature: it narrowed toward the top. The banshee climbed higher and found its freedom to maneuver robbed inch by inch.
“Help!” Daniels screeched.
He could almost smell the thing’s breath when a metal bar shot through the shaft right between the banshee’s legs. Another came through over its shoulder. More bars slid through the shaft, trapping the banshee in place. It struggled, tried to claw at the bars with its talons, but with no room to move, it had no way to leverage any of its strength.
The chain holding Daniels started moving again. It pulled him through an opening at the top of the shaft and a pair of crewman got him clear of his exit. One slammed a metal plate over the top and activated mag-locks, sealing it to the opening.
“Is he OK?” the XO asked over the intercom.
“He’s in one piece, ma’am,” a crewman said.
“I’m just…going to lay here…for a minute,” Daniels said between breaths.
Valdar caught his reflection in the tactical plot. His face was haggard, his beard needed a decent trim and the bags under his eyes spoke of days without sleep. He took a sip of black coffee. The caffeine haze of the past many hours would come to a screeching halt once his body demanded rest. Perhaps he could step away for a cat nap.
“Captain, you need to see this,” Ensign Geller said.
“According to the Dotok, their Glorious Fleet had five Canticle-class generation ships, right?” Valdar glared at the ensign. “So, I thought, ‘Where are they?’ The entire rest of the fleet was blown up by the Dotok or us. That many ships would—”
Valdar slammed a fist against the plot table. His cup and saucer fell to the deck and shattered.
“I found them!” Geller squeaked. “And I found out why our jump in to the system went sideways.” He held out photographs of a rocky toroid, a gigantic doughnut-shaped asteroid. Long spikes punctured the surface, like someone had dropped a crown of thorns into wet concrete.
“This is a Crucible. A jump gate,” Valdar said.
“One under construction, at least,” Geller said with some pride, “and look around it.” The other pictures showed four Canticle-sized ships around the proto-Crucible. “That’s what messed up our jump. And that’s how I found it! I thought that something out there must have the mass to generate a deep enough gravity well to offset the quantum field variance by at least—”
“Good work, son. How far away is it?”
The ensign picked up a red icon and set it on the tactical plot. Valdar made a few quick calculations in his head then turned to the XO.
“Get all the department heads up here immediately, and get Lafayette on the holo.”
The operations table held a small globe, a miniature of the Breitenfeld and five red enemy ship icons on short pegs. The senior members of the ship stood around the table, along with a hologram of Lafayette.
“The new Crucible is here on approach to Takeni,” Valdar said. “If the Xaros hold true to form, they mean for it to take up orbit. It’ll remain a work in progress until then, which means no drone reinforcements coming through. It does present a problem though.” Valdar pointed the stick in his hands at Ensign Geller.
“Sirs and ma’ams, the gravity well from something this large skews the quantum—”
Valdar snapped the stick against the table.
“We can’t leave,” Geller said. “Or at least we can’t jump to Earth. The greater the distance, the more precise the jump has to be. The mass of the Crucible flaws the jump equation. If we try to jump out of here now, we’ll be ripped apart.”
“So we break anchor,” the chief engineer said. “Get clear of its influence and jump from there.”
“That would work, but we’ll have the Canticle with us soon,” Valdar said. “And it’ll be adrift in space with no engines.”
Ensign Geller cleared his throat. “The solution is for us to jump, with the Canticle, to the brown dwarf star located two point nine light-years from here. We recharge the jump engines there and jump back to Earth.”
“What if there’s a Xaros presence?” Utrecht asked.
“There are no habitable worlds. If the Xaros have been through, there shouldn’t be anything but a monitoring force. We can handle one or two drones,” Valdar said.
“It’ll be a skip and a jump back to Earth, no hop involved,” Geller said. He smiled, waiting for the laugher that never came.
“It won’t work,” Lafayette said. “Your theory is sound, but at the rate the Crucible is approaching … any jump would either tear us to pieces or drop us into deep space.”
“Is deep space that bad?” Ericcson asked. “Anywhere but here seems like an improvement.”
“The jump engines absorb dark matter to charge,” Levin said. “We jump into the middle of nowhere and we’re in trouble. We need to jump within the Nye-Sandburg dark-energy corona around a star or we’ll be sitting out there for years waiting to jump again.”
“Lafayette,” Valdar said, “how do we change the math?”
The Karigole tapped his metal fingertips together. “How much quadrium do we still have?”
“Five rail cannon shells, twenty shells for the point defense guns, nine gauss rifle shots,” Utrecht said. “I don’t know if the armor still have their one round each.”
“That will be more than enough. I’ll need every shell brought to my lab. It will take me three hours to build the bomb. Captain, I’ll need you to figure out a way to get myself and a small package onto the approaching Crucible…at this location, the command nodule. I’ll return immediately.” Lafayette’s hologram switched off.
“Did he say ‘bomb’?” Ericcson asked.
“He did,” Valdar said. “Ibarra turned his quadrium munition factory into a singularity bomb when we were running from the drones chasing us away from Earth. He must know how to make one too.”
“He’s going to make a black hole … on our ship?” Ericcson asked.
“Anyone have a better idea?” Valdar asked. None were offered. “Durand, let’s figure out how to get him where he needs to be.”
Hale stood on the Mule’s ramp, his boots and hand mag-locked to the ship. He scanned the ground below, looking for any sign of the civilians Torni had seen.
“You think they’re scared, sir?” Bailey asked from the upper turret.
“Makes sense. If they’re running from Usonvi, the last thing they heard from New Abhaile after they blew the rail lines was to stay put and wait for evac. They might think our Mule’s some sort of Xaros. Plus, they haven’t had the best of luck with aliens dropping out of the sky to say hello,” Hale said.
“Got ’em on thermals,” Orozco said. The cameras integrated into his bottom turret were far superior to Hale’s Mark One Eyeball. The gunner sent a feed to Hale, and he saw dozens of warm bodies hiding in a field of shrubs running up a hillside.
“Pilot, set us down at that clearing. Let’s see how many we’re dealing with,” Hale said. He heard the whine of landing gear descending and held on tight as the ship lowered to the ground.
It settled against a field of long grass, whipping from side to side in the ship’s exhaust.
“Cut it down to standby, don’t want to scare them off,” Hale said.
“A drone shows up and we’ll be sitting ducks for two minutes,” the pilot shot back.
“Then the sooner I get this over with, the better.” Hale locked his rifle against his back and stepped off the ramp with Torni, Yarrow and Standish right behind him. He kept his hands out and to his sides as he made his way to the underbrush where they’d seen the Dotok. The Mule’s engines died down to a low whine.
“Hello! I’m Lieutenant Hale!” he shouted. No response. “I’m from the Breitenfeld Ancient Pa’lon sent me to help!”
A Dotok stood up from the brush, a male in flowing robes and a turban made from silk.
“The Breitenfeld? It’s real?”
“You’re talking to a human.” Hale removed his helmet, and the Dotok recoiled with a sneer on his lips.
“Don’t take it personally, sir. They think I’m ugly too,” Torni said.
The turbaned Dotok came down the mountainside, a clipboard in one hand and a small book in the other.
“I am Chosen Nil’jo, leader of Usonvi and its inhabitants,” he said.
“What happened to Usonvi? Why’d you leave?”
“We saw the noorla pods coming through the atmosphere, and the scouts I sent out to investigate never came back. I left my lowers to defend the city and brought my higher ratings with me. We can make it to New Abhaile in another two days. The losses will be acceptable, so long as those lowers with me save their rations for their betters,” Nil’jo said.
“You…left people behind?” Hale asked.
“If they can delay the noorla for a bit to buy time for highers, a worthy exchange,” Nil’jo said. “How many can your ship carry? I have to prioritize.”
“All of them, just get them down here,” Hale said.
“My boy, there’s no way we can get three hundred and nine Dotok into that…thing,” Nil’jo said.
Nil’jo pulled a whistle from his robes and blew three notes. Dotok arose from the scrub and came down the hill. More—many more—ran over the top of the hill.
“I’ll organize them for you. Twenty? Thirty, perhaps?” Nil’jo said.
“Hale, you got a second?” the pilot asked him.
Hale backed away, watching as the Dotok fell into ranks ten people wide. Each knew exactly what their assigned ranking was within Nil’jo’s hierarchy.
“You! Ti’ka! I saw you eat those preserves. Your parents lose ten rankings!” Nil’jo pointed a pen at a little boy and shooed him and his family back a row.
The pilot, a dark-skinned man with close-cropped hair, stood beside his Mule examining the landing struts.
“I’m Jorgen,” the pilot said. “I didn’t want the civvies to hear this, but there’s two ways I can fly back. Go the straight route over the mesas, which is faster, but I’ll have to pressurize the ship, which means I can’t take as many passengers. I won’t have the air for it. Other option is I go nap-of-the-earth, low and fast. I can keep the cabin unpressurized. They’ll be colder than sin, but they’ll be able to breathe.”
“How many can you take, each option?”
“Ten if I go the high route. As many as you can fit for the low route. If they were Marines with their own air tanks and O2 scrubbers, it would be different,” Jorgen said.
“Nothing is ever easy in the Corps, is it?”
“That’s why I joined the navy.”
“How long until you can come back with enough carry for the rest, say two hundred and seventy, plus four Marines?”
“There’s one hell of a dust storm coming in, remember? I can get a load back now. After that we’ve got to wait until the storm passes,” Jorgen said. “And hurry up—there’s a nuke set to blow.”
“Mr. Hale-Breitenfeld,” Nil’jo waved to Hale from the base of the ramp. “I’ve got the highest twenty-five ready to depart.”
Nil’jo’s choice evacuees were middle-aged and elderly Dotok, carrying bound books and thick ledgers. They looked like scholars and accountants, all wearing robes that were once finery before a long trek through the wilderness.
The crowd of the less worthy were families. Women held squalling babies on their hips and tried to hold toddlers tight as they all looked at the Mule like it was their last chance for survival.
Which, Hale knew, it probably was.
He looked at the bureaucrats Nil’jo wanted to save and back at the less fortunate, who were somehow less worthy in their Chosen’s eyes. Anger welled up into his chest, and something snapped.
“No. We’re not taking any able-bodied adults who can keep walking,” Hale said.
“What?” Nil’jo looked at Hale like he’d sprouted a second head. “My list is complete and ranked accordingly. There’s no way I’ll let lowers get to safety so long as I—”
Hale’s hand shot out and wrapped around Nil’jo’s throat. The Chosen went silent with a gurgle.
“I don’t have time to give your culture its proper respect. We’re going off the human list. It goes something like this: Women and children first! Sergeant Torni, bring families up here, anyone that can’t keep walking. Wounded, elderly. Standish,” Hale continued, pointing to the bureaucrats with the hand that wasn’t strangling Nil’jo, “any of them decide they don’t like my plan and try to get on board, you have my permission to beat the hell out of them until they feel otherwise.”
“Sir, one thing,” Standish said.
“He can’t breathe, sir. I don’t think purple is a good color for a Dotok,” Standish said.
Hale shoved the Chosen into the dirt, where he hacked and coughed, trying to find the breath to protest.
Torni took Yarrow and Bailey to the waiting Dotok and pulled mothers with children from the group and pushed them toward the Mule. The few husbands and fathers didn’t protest as their families got a lifeline to safety.
Almost sixty women with small children waited at the base of the ramp as Jorgen and Orozco helped get them inside.
“Orozco,” Hale said, “get in the dorsal turret. New Abhaile will need your Gustav more than I will out here.”
“Sir…no, I can—”
“Now, sergeant. That’s an order,” Hale said.
Orozco hesitated, then gave the lieutenant a quick salute. He pushed his way through the civilians and opened the turret hatch.
“I’m full.” Jorgen made a cutting motion across his neck.
“Get them back,” Hale said. His Marines raised their weapons across their chests and kept the civilians off the ramp as it rose. Wails rose from the crowd as it sealed shut. The Mule took to the air on anti-grav thrusters, sending a blast of air through the crowd.
The Dotok cried as they watched it soar away.
“Jorgen,” Hale said into the IR before the Mule could get out of range, “there’s a mesa to the northeast. Meet us there as soon as you can bring back enough lift for everyone.”
“Roger, Hale. You’ve got my word,” Jorgen said.
“Listen to me,” Hale said to the Dotok. “We’re all getting out of here. Every single one of you. My Marines and I are here to protect you, to guide you to where more of those ships will return and bring you to the Canticle of Reason. Understand?”
The crying subsided.
“You made it this far. You can make it the rest of the way, but we have to leave now.” Hale pointed to the northeast. “Follow us.”
He tapped Torni on the shoulder. “You and Standish take the rear. Bailey and I will guide the column. Let me know if we’ve got any stragglers,” Hale said.
“On it, sir,” she said.
Hale found Nil’jo on the ground, trying to pick up sheets of paper that had come loose from his book. The Chosen squeaked and tried to run away as Hale approached. Hale grabbed him by the back of his robes.
“You listen to me,” Hale said, balling his hands with Nil’jo’s robes. “Every one of you is getting out of here. You fight me on this and I will squeeze your pencil neck until your head pops clean off. You get me?”
Nil’jo looked from side to side.
“What can I get you?” he asked.
“You understand me?’
“Yes. Yes, no problem. Everyone gets out.” He raised his clipboard. “I’ve got a list right here of—” Hale knocked the clipboard out of his hand. “Who needs a list if everyone’s on it?” Hale let him go and unlocked his rifle from his back. He ran to the front of the column of refugees and matched pace with Bailey.
“Damn, sir,” she said.
“I like angry Hale. Just don’t actually pop that bludger’s head off. There’d be paperwork and that might cut into my drinking time,” she said.
Hale looked to the sky and saw a slight haze rising in the distance.
“There’s your dust storm. I made it through a couple out in the bush, not sure how bad they are here,” Bailey said.
“We’ll find out, won’t we?”
Ahead of the column, low hills with short, thorny bushes were all he could see as the terrain rose higher and higher into a mountain range. They had hours to go until they reached the mesa.
“What gives, sir? Why angry Hale all of a sudden?”
“You know who my godfather is, Bailey?”
“Captain Valdar, and I’ll tell you why. Back during the Second Pacific War, my father was a lance corporal with 5th Marines, based out of Okinawa. The Japanese and the whole American Pacific Fleet got caught with their pants down when the Chinese popped an EMP over Tokyo. The Chinese landed an entire corps worth of troops on the island and the fight was on. Marines and the Japanese army never had a chance, but they held out for twenty days waiting for help. On the last day, the Chinese broke through and chased the defenders into the sea.
“My old man took a shot to the gut. Couple of his buddies dragged him to a rusted-out scow of a ship that an ensign named Isaac Valdar had commandeered. Valdar waits until the last American is onboard, he shoves off under fire and has got a straight shot into the Pacific Ocean.
“Then, a pretty little Okinawan girl comes running for the ship. Her parents were high up in the Japanese government, and the Chinese had them all marked on their black lists for execution. She gets to the ship or she’s a dead woman. She jumps in the water and starts swimming for the ship.
“Valdar cuts the engines, goes out on the deck and tosses the girl a ladder to help her up. Chinese sniper hits him in the leg and he needs a tourniquet to keep from bleeding out. Good thing the girl he saved was a nurse. She patched him up and kept my father alive until they got picked up by the navy. The nurse and my father fell for each other and got married. Hence, me.
“Valdar risked everything to save one more life, and because of that…I’m here. If I can save more, I will. Who knows what’ll come of it.”
Bailey nodded, smacking her gum as she digested the story.
“Me mum and pa met at a bar,” she said.