Writer’s Note: Brothers In Arms: Part Four was published originally in Jump Point 3.8. Read Part One here, Part Two here, and Part Three here.
A recorded hymn played as they sent Arun “Boomer” Ainsley into whatever great adventure awaits in the everafter. Gavin set the service in the Rhedd Alert hangar, and the recording sounded terrible. The last somber note rebounded off the room’s hard surfaces and harsh angles.
He wished they could have had a live band. He would have paid for an orchestra, if one were to be had on the orbital station. Even a bugle would have been a better tribute for the man who had brought Dell into his life. For the man who taught him and Walt so much about living a free life.
Dell’s arm felt small around his waist and Gavin pulled her in close to him, unsure if that was the right thing to do. He turned to kiss her hair and saw Walt’s lean form looming beside them. Walt’s face was fixed in a grim mask.
Gavin knew his brother well enough to know that Walt was berating himself inside. He didn’t deal well with guilt or responsibility, and Gavin suspected that was a big part of why Walt always ran.
The gathering started to break up. Pilots and the hangar crew busied themselves with tasks around Rhedd Alert’s battered fleet of fighters. Dell didn’t move, so he stayed there with her. Walt rested a hand on his shoulder.
“Gavin. Oh gods, Dell. I can’t tell you how sorry I am.”
Jazza leaned in and spoke in a low tone, almost a whisper. “Landing gear up in ten, boss. Your rig is on the buggy.” She motioned with her chin to where his ship waited.
Dell turned into him and squeezed. “Be careful.”
“I will, babe.”
“You come home to me, Gavin Rhedd. I’ll kill you myself if you make me run this outfit on my own.”
He pressed his lips to the top of her head. Held them there.
“Wait. What?” Walt’s jaw was slack, his eyes wide. “Tell me you aren’t going back out there.”
Jazza bumped Walt with her shoulder, not so much walking past him as through him. “Damn right we are, Quitter.”
“You know what? Screw you, Jazz. All right? You used to quit this outfit, like . . . twice a month.”
“Not like you. Not like some chicken sh—”
“Jazz,” Gavin said, “go make sure the team is ready to roll, would ya?” With a nod to Gavin and a parting glare at Walt, she moved away into the hangar.
“Let it be, Walt. We really do need to go. After last time, we can’t risk being late for the pickup.”
“Screw late!” Walt’s eyes were wide and red-rimmed around the edges. “Why the happy hells are you going at all?”
“Don’t ‘Walt’ me, Gavin. There is a pack of psychopaths out there trying to kill you!”
“Walt, would you shut up and listen for two seconds? We don’t have a choice, okay? We’ve got everything riding on this job. We’re months behind on this place and extended up to our necks on credit for fuel, parts, and ammo.”
“They can damn well bill me!”
“No,” Gavin said, “they can’t. Your shares reverted back to the company when you quit. But I’m legit now. You think we lived life on the run before? Just you watch if I try to run from this.”
Walt turned to Dell for assistance, “Dell, come on. You gotta make him listen to reason.”
“Boomer’s shares transferred to me when he died,” Dell said. “We’re in this together.”
“Okay, boss,” Jazza called. The three of them looked to where she stood with a line of determined crew. “It’s time.”
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