Chapter 34: Master and Commander
He found it so very odd how heavy the pocket watch was. No matter where he was or what kind of gravity he was subjected to, it was always far heavier than he thought it should be. It was just a silver pocket watch. A fine one, to be sure. Ornate. Durable. Befitting an officer of his station.
The watch had been a gift from his wife Hitomi and daughter Kara when he became a Grand Admiral of all humanity’s spacebound Argosy forces some months ago. Well, his wife bought it. His daughter was just born, after all. He’d found it in her crib on the night of his congratulatory party, her little hands lightly grasping the chain. Hitomi had obviously wanted it to look like she was presenting it to her father. She really knew how to tug at his heartstrings, and her daughter was turning out to be a natural at it.
The flagship Tuatha Dé Danann was built to be a shining example of the glorious heritage The Traveler had bestowed upon humanity, and the torch to be carried forward. It was commissioned to prototype many bleeding-edge advances and usher in a new era where humanity would protect The Traveler. His command of such a stunning ship was heralded as the first of many bright new days.
Such wonderful memories helped keep him sane in these dark times. Helped to keep him fighting.
The battle had been tempestuous, but severely one-sided. It was as if the blackness of space had somehow become a thing. An angry god with the singular intent of wiping humanity away for some unfathomable transgression. The god and its legions attacked unrelentingly, and with unfathomable power.
True to its name, The Tuatha Dé Danann was the finest of ships and full of great heroism, and great hubris. Unlike its namesake, it was not the thundering king of gods that tore the hero down, but an enemy so dark that it blotted out the stars.
Tactics shifted quickly from repelling the enemy to buying time. Time for a plan or at least perhaps time for some to escape. He was not sure how many refugee ships made it through, if any had. Openings in the enemy lines were hard to come by and carving them out by force cost many precious lives.
He didn’t make it easy on them. No ship deserted, no crew abandoned their post. The finest ships of the line were cornerstones to formations that spanned thousands of kilometers. Man-made stars that gleamed with the hope and determination of an entire civilization. Every ship pumped pure war into the foe, but formations crumbled faster than commanders could compensate. Front after front dissolved. The day would inevitably be lost.
As his ship was torn apart around him, he held his silver pocket watch in his hand and judged the weight one last time. Popping it open and looking at the picture of his loving family embedded in the lid, he finally understood why the watch weighed so much. It carried the heart of his family inside.