Simale gently propped him up in his seat and grabbed the controls. With shaking hands, she tried to maneuver the pod to a chorus of status alerts. The interior temperature plunged as Latkor’s thin, frozen air seeped through the fist-sized hole. The pod gradually stabilized, giving her a measure of control. After some coaxing, she managed to initiate the pod’s autopilot and hastily entered a landing coordinate. She glanced at Elgar, his body crumpled like a broken puppet.
“Don’t leave me, Elgar,”she said, clutching his limp hand. “Stay with me. You’ve got to help me through this!”
The bloodstain crept inexorably across his blue tunic. Simale choked a sob as his eyes fluttered open. He grimaced with pain, sweat gleaming on his forehead despite the chill air.
“Think…the bastard got me,”he whispered. “Can’t…can’t breathe…”
Simale embraced him. “No, Elgar,”she said, stroking his damp hair. “Please hold on! We’ll get through this, you’ll see. Someone’s bound to get the distress signal. Maybe the interference isn’t so bad from the surface. They’ll find us. You’ll be all right!”
He looked into her moistening eyes, a faint smile on his lips. “I never knew you cared…”
A golden tear trickled down Simale’s face. Gently, she stroked his face and planted a soft kiss on his lips. “I didn’t realize how much until now, Elgar. From the day we met at the street market, I knew you were special. It didn’t matter that you weren’t Latkian, it only mattered that I loved you.”
Tears glistened in Elgar’s eyes despite his attempts to blink them back. “Then you felt the same?”he murmured.
She nodded. “You were always coming and going. Somehow, it never seemed the right time to mention anything. I was afraid I’d scare you off. I know troopers. Commitment is more frightening than the worst possible battle. Emotions always have a way of complicating things. That was the last thing I wanted. But now, now there is something I want…”