A Military Sci-Fi short story in four parts.

The world of Resilience is a small green speck amidst the velvety backdrop of distant starlight. It twirls along through the void, a dancer spinning to a tune only it can hear, alone except for two much smaller moons that flutter along in its wake.

It’s been three long, cold months locked in cryo since I set out from the Solace Prime sector to conduct this interview. I am eager to meet the man behind the myth. His promise to speak the truth of what made him a war hero has me dreaming of the journalism awards I'll win when I come home and publish this. Thoughts of how I'll display them in my office warms me and helps keep back the aching chill of the thawing process.

Arrival at the starport is a slow ordeal of scans, security checkpoints, and waiting at the baggage claim. The view from the orbital elevator is unmatched. A sea of green forests split by the lancing peaks of frost-capped mountains. No oceans on this part of Resilience, only the glaciers that carved all these low valleys, the rivers that run between them, and a handful of deep, deep lakes. Paradise: for those who don't mind broad stretches of untamed wilderness.

A middle-aged chauffeur meets me at the orbital platform. He has all the hallmarks of Solarian beauty. Distinguished lines, sun-darkened skin, a hint of silver cybernetics gracing his skin, proud features, and a handsome smile. He greets me by name and offers to take me to the estate. No need to name whose estate. We both know who I am here to see. He guides me away from the platform and out into open fields where an array of personal vehicles have been parked.

It amazes me to see how little infrastructure has been built. No paved roads. Only the odd fusion tower here and there along the horizon, providing the necessary power for whatever homes exist unseen amidst the trees. Ignoring those, the elevator stretching up into the heavens, and all the modern vehicles parked at its base, the surface was untouched greenery as far as the eye could see.

I've never seen anything like it.

Compared with the rugged edge-of-the-frontier ground crawlers and bulky low-orbit haulers parked in the surrounding fields, the vessel my chauffeur brings me to is obscenely expensive, if a few years out of date. With the flared wings and sleek lines that were popular the better part of a century ago, it had a certain vintage quality that carried a hefty price tag. It must have cost more than I made in a decade.

He lets me take the co-pilot's chair as he powers her up. The engine made a deep rumbling growl, like some mighty apex predator from some bygone era in human history, that sent the hairs on my arms standing up on end and my hands unconsciously reaching for the safety restraints.

I won't ever forget the grin on his face as he glanced over at me.

“You sure you're ready for this?”

I assured him I was.

He kicked the shuttle into high gear and blasted away from the field, launching us over the treetops and past the mountains before I could bring myself to breathe. Perhaps, just maybe, I was not entirely ready after all.

Judging by the grin on the man's chiseled face, he found my discomfort all too amusing. Here I was, the big-time city-slicker who came halfway across the galaxy to visit a frontier world, what did I expect? I suppose some light hazing was only my due.

I tried to cover my folly by sticking to my strengths. Asking the questions, guiding the narrative just as he guided the vessel through the air.

“Have you known the Governor long?”

The chauffeur gave me a bit of side eye as he slipped dangerously close to a mountainside. So close that one wing of his shuttle came away with a bit of snow.

“Longer than some,” he answered vaguely.

“Would you say you know him well?”

He shrugged. “The Governor is an old man. Like many old men, he has been many different things to different people over the years. Who can say who knows him best?”

Fair enough, I suppose. “Who is he to you?”

He snorted in bemusement. “Good question. Sit back, we're coming in for a landing. Wouldn't want you to ruin your nice suit.”

Despite his warning, the man set us down so gently I didn’t even know we’d touched down until he unfastened his restraints and stepped back from the controls. Impressive enough that I held no question in my mind as to why he acted as the Governor's private pilot.

Awaiting us outside the shuttle was a grand and well-appointed estate, as befit a war hero. The chauffeur was kind enough to grab my bag and lead me across the exquisitely maintained grounds to the main house. Xenosapien attendants greeted us at the door, showing us to a large study where sat the iconic figure I had traveled so far to see.

He was everything I’d expected from the war hero turned planetary governor. The same noble, distinguished features of a Solarian as the middle-aged pilot standing beside me—in fact they bore a striking resemblance—the former was simply weathered by many more years. Short-cropped hair, piercing eyes, a stark white beard trimmed and oiled, and a well-tailored suit pulled taut over an aging but still muscular frame. A tumbler full of scotch in one hand and an old fashioned data screen in the other. Behind him rose a holographic portrait of the man he’d once been. Young and proud, holding aloft the flag of the Solarian Monarchy as he stood in the ruins of a xenosapien capital world.

I was practically buzzing with excitement as I stood there, practically feeling the awards they’d give me when I returned to Solace. I opened my mouth to greet the man, the myth, the legend himself.

“Governor Jax, it is an honor. Thank you for inviting me to your home,” I said. Even to my ears the words sounded stiff and timid.

The old man before me barely glanced up from his screen, sipping from his scotch and peering at me from over the glass rim like I was an at best moderately interesting news article he was skimming. Apparently he didn’t like the headline, for his eyes drifted back down to his screen without saying anything.

“That will be all, son,” the chauffeur stated. His tone was commanding. Regal. Not what I would have expected from a servant speaking to his employer.

The aging gentleman standing in the study nodded deferentially, a familiar bemused smile gracing his lips, and he departed from the study without a word. It was the same semi-smirk I’d seen on the chauffeur’s mouth right before he’d punched the shuttle’s throttle. Perhaps there was more than a passing resemblance between the two men after all.

I failed entirely to conceal my shock, I’m sure, as the chauffeur stepped into the center of the study and began pouring himself a glass of the same scotch. Only once he had taken a sip did he turn to me and affix me with a cool gaze.

My eyes flitted back and forth between his face and the holographic display overhead. At first my mind refused to draw the obvious correlation. It had been eighty years since that still was taken. He looked like he’d aged perhaps one tenth of that time.

Solarian Ambrosia was one hell of a wonder-fruit, slowing the aging process down to a snail's pace. If one consumed it regularly. Back in the Solace Prime sector that was simple enough but here, in the New Gaian system, that was an expensive commodity. Then again, this man was a war hero.

More and more questions I'd have to ask as the day progressed. I figured I'd start with the obvious.

You are Governor Jax?” I asked, incredulous.

The man, whom I had mistaken as a mere chauffeur, nodded only once, curtly, and I was left with the distinct feeling I had failed some preliminary test. With a gesture towards a seating area that had been arranged for us, he started us off.

“You’ve come a long way for this interview, son. Let’s get to it.”

I sat and arranged my equipment just so across the low table between us, using the time it took to collect myself. He sat across from me and waited.

Where to begin?

Letting my nervousness fall away, I slipped into the role I’d flown a long way to fulfill and activated the recording device. A small drone launched into the air and began filming us, taking in every detail of the study we sat in and the rolling hills of his estate stretching away from the broad windows that dominated one wall.

“Let’s wind the clock back a few years,” I began.