She played with the red gold band on her finger to keep her nerves in check. The transit point still seemed so far away with so many people between her and her only chance for a new life.
Her thoughts went, unbidden, to Joran. Not a day went by that she didn't miss him. She had pleaded with him to not join the Colonial Militia but it was already a foregone conclusion. He would go...had to go. He was not, nor could he ever be, the kind of man who let others fight his battles. It was one of the things she loved...had loved that is...about him. He had been a man of principles.
But principles and pride had been of little use to him when faced with the brutal efficiency and the indomitable weaponry of the Cholgachi. They were a warrior race who took what they wanted through equal parts of ferocity and impunity. It had not been a battle. It had been controlled slaughter.
Joran had fallen alongside the other 250 men of the colony and the small contingent of Republic Marines in just under an hour. The Cholgachi were merciless in their reaction to any sort of defiance. They offered no quarter, took no prisoners, accepted no surrender.
She and the other women of the colony were left without husbands, fathers, friends and colleagues in what seemed the blink of an eye. In reality, the loss was deeper and more insidiuous than their stunned minds could initially fathom. The Cholgachi did not give up the bodies of those killed in resistance to them. The women were summarily denied the simple comfort of grieving over those lost since no smallest trace of them existed. It was as if they had never been at all.
And so, Mara stood on line, hoping to procure one of the precious few berths on a refugee ship heading off planet and back to Republic space. There were 450 colonists left and room for only 100 per ship. The Republic was pressing into service any vessel within range but the prospects were dim.
The Cholgachi, in a rare show of equanimity, had offered the beleaguered humans the span of three planetary days to evacuate the planet they now held claim to or face the consequences.
It was now day two and Mara had not slept or eaten in an attempt to hold her place in line. She grew weaker and her spirits sank with each passing hour as the odds of her escape grew less and less likely. Her only hope seemed to lie in whether or not the slim red gold band would be enough to bribe her way aboard.
It was absolutely forbidden for the crew of a Republic relief ship to demand payment for passage. That being said, the ships that plied the frontier space were far beyond the reach of Republic justice. They would do as they wished and, perhaps, suffer the consequences later.
Waiting on line, she recalled the day Joran had given her the keepsake. It had been his mother's. He swore her his eternal love and painted for her a lustrous picture of the idyllic life they would share together on Foster's World.
True to his word, he had built her a comfortable, if small, home and filled it not only with things but with love and hope and the promise of a future. They had shared but a single year together before the Cholgachi had transformed what they shared into fire and blood and ashes. Foster's World no longer held anything for her.
As her turn finally came, Mara came to the sudden but sad realization that she could not part with the ring. Any chance it offered her for a future could only be had at the expense of forsaking the only momento she had of the only man she had ever loved.
Trading away his ring would not bring hope but only an inescapable pall of betrayal. Any future she might have would be purchased by forsaking Joran and all that they had been. She would not do that.
Head held high, she stepped off line, motioning others to pass her by. Her future was for naught without her past and that past was here. She would embrace her past and the wondrous memories they had made together.
She would await the end and welcome it with no regrets. She only hoped the legendary Cholgachi propensity for delivering death swiftly was deserved. The sooner they did what they intended, then the sooner she could be reunited with her beloved.