Drake quietly swayed from side to side as the transport was tossed about from the turbulence of re-entry. The white orange embers of the burning air outside flickered by the view ports, casting a warm yet eery glow across the cabin. The cabin was strangely quiet despite the violent nature of what was occurring only a few feet away, outside the insulated hull of the earth bound transport.
Drake clutched tightly in his hands the consummation of his worldly possessions; a duffel bag with some clothes, a few books, and a singed photograph. His knuckles were white not from the fear of the descent, for he has been through more of them, most of a more violent nature than this one, then perhaps most people on earth. Drake had butterflies in his stomach. After years away at war, he was finally returning home.
It has been a long time since he has seen her face.
Drake slowly looked about the cabin, the orange glow fading, the turbulence dying down as the ship captain made his scheduled announcement. They would be landing in about 5 minutes or so. As his eyes wandered, his eyes were met by a little girl. She couldn't have been more than ten, but her gaze was steady and unwavering. Their eyes locked for a minute, and the little girl finally smiled before waving at him. Drake could feel his insides churn as he slowly closed his eyes, squeezing them tightly shut. The ghosts of faces flashing through his mind, the echoes of voices past ringing in his ears.
Every little girl is a reminder of the atrocities of war, and the things that he will have to live with for the rest of his life.
After about 12 minutes, the transport touched down on one of the many open, circular landing pads reserved for inter-station transports. There was a buzz of people around the transport as it powered down for egress, various technicians connected and disconnected various hoses and wires, getting it ready for the next run into high orbit. After a few minutes, the captain made his final announcement, and the passengers slowly made their way to the gangway that would take them to the terminal for processing.
Drake stepped outside and took a deep breath. This is the first time in many years that he has breathed real, unprocessed air. It felt good to his lungs. Though, he coughed a bit, the sudden change a shock to his system, as there was now a sudden need to re-acclimate himself to the pollutants in the air. Drake didn't care. He was home.
Drake slowly made his way through the terminal. It felt odd walking in real gravity, and would take some time getting used to. He scanned the crowds of people, and noticed the stares as he passed some people by. He subconsciously rubbed a hand over the metal jack implanted in the base of his skull, an implant reserved for a select few in the Allied Earth Defense Fleet. An implant he was sure had some bad associations here back home. He had never been uncomfortable about his implants until now, now that he was getting unwanted attention for it.
He was already starting to miss life in the fleet. At least in the fleet he had a purpose, and he was respected for what he did, and could do. With his implants and training, he could lead entire squadrons into battle with but a thought. He could hear every transmission bouncing through the air, able to respond with but a thought. He could read the surface thoughts of others, able to respond even before the enemy knew what they were going to do. He could connected directly to various weapons of war, becoming an extension of himself. He was a walking weapon of the Allied fleet. Now, he was just a normal person amongst the crowd.
Never has Drake felt so small.
He waited in line for about half an hour before he made his way to the customs desk.
"Anything to declare?" He was met by a smiling girl of about twenty years. Drake smiled back at her sheepishly. he simply shook his head as he handed her his tattered passport. Her eyes widened slightly as she saw the number of planets and colonies printed on the inside. She admired it for a moment before handing it back to Drake.
"Seems your quite the traveler."
"Something like that..." Drake replied quietly. Most of those stamps had been made pre-war. Most of those places they belonged to no longer existed.
And a bit of a harbinger, he thought to himself.