Johan stared at the midnight sky, sensing that the universe beckoned him home. He’d been away far too long. Maybe it was time to go home before it he forgot completely.
His superiors in the Alliance assigned him to broker peace between two warring planets, and he succeeded—publicly. He became clear that neither planet had an interest in substantial talks and little desire for peace. Johan decided that the best he could accomplish was to broker an extension of the truce he secured at the beginning of negotiations.
On the surface, everyone behaved and said all the right things. However, behind closed doors, they were still threatened war. They had only agreed to the truce to keep the public and press away from the truth.
The reports that he sent to his superiors indicated the truce was stable. The summits on the largest moon around one planet had been well-publicized, and the press reacted to the resulting press conference and the brokered truce as he hoped. After all, he had orchestrated everything.
It had been fun leading the press around by the nose, but time was up, and the truce wouldn’t last forever. He wanted off the planet before the warring worlds stopped pretending.
Johan slipped out of his hotel room and made his way to where he had hidden a small ship that would take him to a small moon where he had placed a jump platform to transport him to his home planet. Part of him didn’t want to leave, as he had allowed a woman to capture his heart. Esper, the wife of a diplomat who had tried to broker peace but had been accused of conspiracy, banned from the talks. and then disappeared, and Johan suspected foul play. He had spent a lot of time with Esper, and they had grown close—too close. He would miss her.
He was about to close the hatch and engage the engines when he noticed a figure standing outside the ship. Johan opened the hatch door to see who it was. It was Esper.
He climbed out of the hatch. “I have to go. I’ve done all I can do here. You know that.”
“But you promised you’d take me with you.”
“I know, but I can’t.”
“Can’t or won’t?”
“Esper, it’s too risky. The atmosphere you breathe is too complex and difficult to recreate using the breathing pods. The last time you left the planet, you nearly died.”
She nodded, dropping her head and toying with the breathing pods dangling in her hands.
Johan grasped her shoulders. “I would give anything to take you with me. You shouldn’t be here when….” He let it tail off as they both knew what would happen to here. He made up his mind.
He took the breathing pods from her hands. “Esper, would you rather die here accused of collusion with your husband or risk possible death with me?”
“I want to be with you.”
He slipped the pods over her head and adjusted the tips underneath her nostrils. “Esper, come with me. The first stop after we arrive at my planet will be to the Engineering Institute to fix these so that you live.”