The IHSOC (pronounced hæ-suck)
Also known as the Intergalactic Headquarters of the Society in Combat…
Five years later
Crimson Roth. Everyone knew her name. A young woman known for her rebellious spirit and her sturdy leadership as the General of the IHSOC Recon Department. The heroine of the entire universe. Even the General herself couldn’t keep track of all those titles whispered beyond the stars.
After getting a Debonair’s Degree prior to leading the Recon Department after her last days in College; she became an Aviatrix, a champion Aviatrix. Even Chester Caspian, her Aviator idol, had lost in many Aviator tournaments against the young General. Some would say they were friendly rivals, others would say otherwise. Crimson Roth became a household name. She became a living, breathing legend.
She got her NYX rebuilt after being fetched back from the planet Gregorax. And the planet Gregorax itself? From a war-base to an outstanding tourist destination. After all, everyone wanted to hear about the amazing journey of the talented Aviatrix. Everyone did.
The Roth family themselves were quite successful as much as their prized Crimson. Her younger brother, Otis, became a specialized pre-time Alienologist and Planetarian, discovering new creatures and new planets around the galaxy during his pastimes and whenever he could. He was known for being extremely close to his older sister, saying, “All of these discoveries wouldn’t be happening without her as my ideal inspiration to go on.”
Mr. and Mrs. Roth were very rich themselves. They opened a new spaceship-engineering course for all ages. Not one kid in the universe didn’t join the exciting program, educating young kids in the art of building pre-revolutionary technology and galactic vessels, with additional teachings of math and all sciences.
Life was fortunately lavish for the Roths.
Even General Roth could agree on that fact easily. But of course, the general herself had doubts to prioritize.
She viewed herself without a name shimmering in gold, fame and glory. Every single minute of every single day, the same thoughts would say the same things all over again: she was just another lucky woman in the universe. But the unspoken incident five years ago… That was another thing. The painful memory that kept playing with her life as if she were a puppet of some kind. It was sort of acting like her life’s green-and-red light.
It was unspeakable for her. General Roth was haunted by the adventure. She was okay with flying her sleek spaceship on a daily basis without any slight tickle of fright and fighting against terrorizing armies all year-round, but the fact… The fact that someone sacrificed himself to save her life. He was the real reason General Roth lived to see another day to tell the dark story.
It was another boring Monday (all Mondays were boring. It was a universally agreed fact) and General Roth was in her stunning office, attending to the stacks of paperwork and (occasionally) some fan-letters from her adorers. Reply. Type. Sign. Reply. Type. Sign. Ditto. It was a continuous process in the life as a female General of the Recon Department. And she accepted that it would be her life from now on; until she retires, of course.
But she was still 21 and fresh as a fruit, approximately three decades until she decides to quit the job. Maybe. That’s how Crimson planned her life after all.
As she worked her way through her forever-appearing administrativia, one of her favorite right-hand men walked in. A few months younger than the General was Orion Beckett, a skilled fighter-pilot in the Recon and a skilled poet in romantics. He was very dashing, with tidily combed black hair and a playful smirk similar to Crimson’s. Very often, girls in the IHSOC would swoon over his looks and his charming disposition. Crimson slightly took a liking for him, not just because of his personality but because of his responsibility in the army-work and all.
Rumors began to spring when some of the staff in the IHSOC spot them sitting together in the cafeteria (on rare occasions) during lunch or when one of Orion’s friends caught him entering General Roth’s office and blew up into hysterics. The rest was history. General Roth would only smile playfully at those who dare speak and spread the rumors quite rudely (like a chatterbox). But most are warned; they usually end up in the gut duty. And no one loved the gut duty.
“What is it now Beckett?” General Roth groaned, rolling her eyes. She had her frizzy red hair in a bun and her body forcefully accustomed to the sleek black uniforms of a suit and a tie in the IHSOC. She tapped her pen in a frenzy. “Is it the girls again? Goodness, they are so bothersome. Don’t they have any business to attend to other than our supposedly rumored ‘love story?’ My heavens, they’d never grow up.”
Orion coughed politely, sharpening his suit so all the flattened folds would be less visible. It was a habit for him whenever he was in a conversation. “No ma’am. There are just several things to discuss-” but he was quickly cut off by Crimson.
She said calmly, “There is no need to address me in such polite titles like miss or ma’am. I don’t do titles. My name has been christened to be so informal, I still wonder how people could bare the fact that such informal person with the name ‘Crimson’ can be quickly made into a General of the Recon team in the spawn of three years. Quite the catch if you’d ask me.”
Orion grinned. He amused himself whenever the General would talk in such long sentences. He knew her from school, being ever so rebellious and witty in words. Said Orion, “Well… Crimson. The first order of business!” Orion grabbed hold a large folder of papers and placed it into General Roth’s desk, several marked with red and blue ink-stamps. “We have several complaints from a nearby planet called Escollaria. They have been recently attacked by the Somdaran Fleet a few hours ago and we didn’t come for backup. Oh, and by several, I meant by 49983 complaint letters of help- they might be adding as we speak.”
General Roth nodded firmly. “Then send a message to Mr. Mahdij of the Resources and Saving Department to set course for Escollaria. Tell the Escollarians we will arrive shortly.” She sighed half-heartedly and rubbed her head, ashamed for her irresponsibility in the service of help. “Anything else?” General Roth asked.
“Well, the coffee machine in level fifteen broke down. The janitors expected you to fund the mess,” Orion said, slightly annoyed at how needy the janitors were.
General Roth shook her head. “Not my division. That’s for Alissa Donell to handle. They should be complaining to that holiday-taking, hell-of-a-woman. Anything worth my time though?”
Orion tapped his fingers on his lap, thinking. Suddenly, a though flashed through him. “Oh! Right, sorry. A few minutes ago, before I arrived here, a young man wanted to speak to you. Face to face.”
Crimson raised an eyebrow in interest. “Oh? Is it my brother? He knows better than to disturb me in such a havoc-making place.”
Orion shook his head. “It is not your brother, but demands to talk to you immediately.” Orion bit his lip. “Says it’s important and urgent.” He passed her a Pro-Touch Pad. “He’s in Talk-Room 51.”
Crimson scanned the screen and her eyes widened in a mixture of both utter amazement, fear and delight. She ordered Orion, “Tell him I’ll be with him shortly. You may go.” Orion stood up to leave, but Crimson added quickly, “Oh, and Beckett?”
“We can eat together sometime,” said Crimson curtly, “to go over some paperwork. Clarify that to those gossipers. I don’t want someone to mistaken a serious talk for a starter’s date. Those who rumor us in a close relationship; they’ll not just have a half-a-day gut duty, but may find themselves in a chance of assisting as a part-time file janitor.” At that point, they both instantly broke into silent laughter. Laughter was something that came and go as it wished in Crimson’s life- the last time she laughed? Weeks, maybe.
As Orion left the room, Crimson inhaled deeply. One of the most boring days had turned into a day of… well, many indescribable things Crimson couldn’t even explain with her own jokes, words and all that vocabulary. Unprofessionally, she released her bun-trapped hair back into its flowing old form; it had grown immensely longer over the time and rather slightly straightened into wavy and unrecognizable curls. She exchanged that stiff suit of hers for a warm beige coat and wore her brown loafers.
Crimson drummed her fingers impatiently and muttered such gibberish as the elevator went down to the lowest floor of the IHSOC and sprinted past fifty rooms (she did count, but she did not know why) and reached her slightly dreaded Talk-Room 51. As she turned the knob and opened the door to reveal whoever was inside, the first instinct Crimson did was take steps back, appalled of who she saw; casually sitting on a metal stool, munching on an Earthen hotdog-sandwich, was Jake Whallscon. And he had grown up as much as his ‘long-time-no-see’, old friend.
When Crimson said nothing, her mouth too speechless to speak, Jake said softly, “Oh, hello again. You’ve aged quite a lot. Is it the paperwork?” Crimson didn’t realized that she did age a lot, but regarding the bags under her eyes over the constant work and a repeated habit of pouting…. yes, she might as well be mistaken to be a decade older than she looks.
But looks weren’t the first thing in her mind. Yes, she has seen Jake had not change much since they last met, still his blonde hair in distressed curls, but even his good-natured smile of trying to make amends did not overthrow the upcoming words of shock she had next. “Five years it took you. Five years we haven’t met. And finally…. after five years, you decided to show up and compliment my looks.” Crimson let out a distressed sigh. “God, what is wrong with me? Tell me you are not Jake Whallscon but another thief who’s trying to rob my office. The last time one did it… let’s say it was not something memorable.”
Jake laughed, and Crimson raised a suspicious eyebrow. “It’s me, all right. Apparently, Time wasn’t all ‘Lord of the Universe’ like we’d expected Time to be,” he said. “Time let me go, and I must say… how old are you? A grandmother?”
Crimson snorted in displease. “I am not a grandmother but a General of the IHSOC. I can call on my guards to take you to the prisons of Lazkarton and be done with it. I am 21 and I could say I’m well myself.”
“Sorry. And sorry it took me a long time. I had to prepare stock and search for wherever you lived. I researched about you and you’ve made quite a good talk around the galaxy- and here I am,” Jake said, trying his best to explain the situation. “I don’t even know how am I alive.”
Crimson nodded, unsure, “Me neither.”
A silent pause ensued.
“So, what really brings you here?” Crimson asked him, folding her arms and taking a seat.
“For you to come with me,” Jake proposed, “and see the rest of the universe together. I am not forcing you to, seeing you have a big job and all… I would not like to ruin your status-”
“Then you’d probably know my answer,” Crimson said, gesturing a ‘no’ his tempting offer. Sure, it would be fun, but would it be worth what she already had?
Jake asked again, “So you want to go along with me? To see the rest of the universe?”
Crimson declined, “Jake. I’ve got a job. A big one. And… I can’t just go.” She looked down to her shoes. “I don’t know if the adventurous self I was is still there, but apparently I have priorities. And so do you.”
Jake nodded. He was not disappointed, and understood that Crimson had all that General nonsense to deal with. He sighed, and said, “Well, if you’re not coming…” and from out of his shaggy blue coat, he took out a familiar red scarf. Crimson widened her eyes- it was the scarf from… that Cyborg City. To hell with the name! Crimson thought; it had a very long name for a small, underground city.
“It isn’t the one you wore during our time in Fhroreevere, though quite similar, so I decided to purchase it… for you. From my short travels, actually. It’s from the safe side of Planet Rootato. I’ll promise to keep in touch some time,” Jake said, handing over the soft fabric to Crimson. She just smiled, and Jake left without a word. No goodbyes. No see-you-laters.
Just a promise.
Speechless after the encounter, Crimson walked back to her office without a word, tucking the shawl inside the inner pocket of her coat. As she arrived there, the young General quickly ran towards the window-covered balcony that looked over whatever was there in the space of stars, and Crimson could see his small spaceship of blinking lights in its grey blast off to the distance.
Crimson smiled, knowing that he would… maybe, someday return. At the thought of it, her heart fluttered slightly; but not like her adventurous spirit five years ago.
“Maybe,” Crimson muttered, before returning to her daily life, her head away from the thoughts of space battles and galactic adventures. “Maybe…”