Nika Veresk
In the shadow of the stolen light

Derek didn’t say anything. For a while not one word was uttered on the bridge.

“Captain, the border cruiser started shooting at the passenger ships,” Chris broke the silence. “We’re outside the affected area, but several ships with refugees followed by the fighter planes are moving in our direction. They are seeking asylum on Titanium. Shall I turn on the loudspeaker?”

The captain nodded. Voices and loud sounds resembling explosions were transmitted on air. Derek was very grateful to Mary for the speaker with synchronized translation. Now he could understand the aliens’ language.

“We have no authority to provide asylum for you,” answered Paul calmly, using his personal speech synthesizer. “We can’t interfere…” Suddenly the connection was lost.

“This ship has just been destroyed,” quietly reported Chris.

Paul shook his head, signs of sincere regret could be read on his face.

“Another one is coming too close. The fighters shooting at it could hit us by accident.”

“Get me their captain.”

“Ready! The connection is established!”

“I am Paul Stones, the captain of ‘Solar Flotilla’s’ shuttle. Your actions threaten the safety of our spacecraft. I am asking you to stop fire!”

“Your ship’s well protected and will not be damaged even if the passenger transport explodes!” answered the Tarian through interference.

Derek approached the porthole – now he could clearly see what was happening outside with his own eyes. The transport with the refugees was awkwardly manoeuvring and trying to stay close to the shuttle in an attempt to prevent the fighters from shooting at them.

“What does our protective field have to do with anything?” said the captain indignantly. “You have no right to put my crew’s life at risk!”

“In this case, go faster so that the ship of the delinquents can’t use you as a shield!”

“We have some cargo onboard that’s slowing us down” confidently lied the captain, which came as a total surprise to the earthling.

Stan hemmed and, looking at the earthling sullenly, put his finger to the lips symbolizing silence. The Tarian was obviously dissatisfied.

“Alright! We’ll stop the fire, but only until your shuttle enters the Titanium protective field!”

The connection was lost.

“But the refugees’ ship won’t be able to pass through the protective field of the artificial planet…” noted Derek, watching the captain closely.

“No, it won’t,” like an echo answered the captain.

“What if we teleport them?”

“Such actions can be viewed as interference into the domestic conflict…”

The earthling swore.

“This is not our war, Derek,” added the captain quietly.

The lighting in the medical compartment seemed too bright for Lora after a long time spent in the darkness of the broken ship. She squinted and covered her eyes with her palm while lying in the regenerative capsule that allowed a quick recovery of the damaged tissues. Her loneliness was disturbed by Derek walking in silently.

“How are you feeling?”

“Fine, thanks,” she opened her eyes and noticed a gloomy expression on his face. “Did something happen?”

The earthling explained the situation in short and the girl sighed heavily.

“Why didn’t you tell me about the consequences of the fall?” asked the young man with reproach after a short silence.

“What for? We were on a mission that I could handle. If the situation had been more serious, I’d have definitely told you.”

“Ligament rupture is not a serious situation?!” said the young man indignantly.

“There’ three minutes and twenty seconds left to full tissue recovery,” reported the medical programme.

“What do you think?” smiled Lora on hearing the forecast.

In response Derek scowled even more and sat in an armchair nearby.

“So, you also risked your life,” he concluded.

“I wouldn’t call my actions risky, but rather rational.”

“I think Paul thought differently. He was very worried about your condition.”

“Please, don’t get it wrong but the crew, left on the shuttle, always monitors the physical condition of those who go on a mission. Paul knew about my injury from the very beginning…”

“So, the time when I didn’t want to leave the ship, he deliberately drew my attention to that,” realized Derek, “Very clever…”

The girl nodded.

“You had to be persuaded…”

“I don’t understand… We had a chance to save those three till the last moment… But we just left them to die…”

“The chance to save them was very small, in contrast to the high possibility of being killed ourselves.”

“This is selfish!” said Derek passionately.

“This is rational,” the girl answered quietly.

“Your rationality is a synonym of indifference!?” said the young man with resentment.

Lora shook her head and responded with a question.

“I don’t understand what’s so outrageous about me wanting to save my own life? Or, my life should be less valuable for me than the lives of those Tarians?”

Derek was ready to say something but stopped suddenly. The question hovered in the air for a while confusing him. The recovery programme with a characteristic squeaking sound completed its work and allowed Lora to sit. Now she perched at the edge of the capsule, her legs dangling, and watched closely at her opponent, who was still puzzled.

“So,” he finally spoke, “you believe that your life is more valuable than the life of the others’?”