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Runaway (Fri som en byrd)

The ship sailed on, peacefully and undisturbed through the special, electric, sunset. Början stood in the pilot’s cabin, heart melting, eyes watering, staring at the beautiful scene ahead, one solid and wild cry reverberating in his head.

Finally.

The sun shone ahead of Ljus, with a warm, comforting light that was simultaneously invigorating. Almost like it knew what was coming. Början took that cue to go downstairs to the bunkers.

Soon they would arrive at the city of Säkerhet, where the villagers would disembark, free again at last. Free to continue their lives, or to start new ones, all without the horrible threat of the Shadows looming over their shoulders.

Början gave the ship a wistful smile, and then climbed down to the bunkers where he rolled up the metal doors to reveal villagers in all sorts of positions all over the rooms. They all looked at him with inquisitive and admiring eyes.

He held out a gentle hand and motioned for them to follow him. They went back up the ladder, up the stairs, and across the small hallways of Ljus until they reached the loading/unloading area. The first place they set foot a week ago when they first got on the ship.

Besides the large drop down door, and a few scattered toolboxes, that area had large horizontal windows that were covered with metal blinds. Början smoothly steered each villager towards these windows, and when they all stood in front of them, silently opened the blinds one by one.

Through every window he opened burst in a new gradient of loveliness. Soft orange tones swirled around bright pink threads and cotton candy puffs of purple. Light streamed into the ship, into the villager’s eyes, leaving them speechless with awe. Början watched as the younger villagers who knew nothing of colors besides the evil purple that overtook their people, the gray of their uniforms, and the brown and white of their bodies, plastered their faces against the glass, drinking in the majesty  of the sunset.

The older villagers however, stood frozen as the memories of colors and all that they symbolized came flashing by. As the younger ones pressed their hands against the glass, desperate to feel the warmth and glory of the outside, the older villagers couldn’t even move theirs to wipe the tears running freely down their cheeks. They remembered.

Eyes a little glassy himself, Början turned to the pilot’s cabin to see the large buildings of Säkerhet only a few miles away. He slowed the ship, and stopped it a mile from the entrance to the city.

When he returned from the main area he saw that the younger villagers were buzzing excitedly to each other, pointing at the outside of the ship while the villagers stood rooted to the edges of the window. They both turned to look at him as he stepped down. He gave them a soft smile, which slowly spread as he punched the button and the door opened.

Light flooded the room, illuminating the villagers’ bodies. They looked at each other in awe before rushing out onto the clouds blessed by the sun. They jumped and somersaulted their bodies across the vibrant landscape, releasing squeals of surprise as they realized the gravity was much lower here, and then shouts of the unique joy that comes with freedom. The other villagers walked with trembling lips and quivering feet, as if unsure that what they were seeing was reality. Början leaped ahead and extended his hands to them.

Come on, all this is for you. 

He understood them in a way. The younger ones springing all around the clouds and the older ones who still could not believe their eyes as they stepped on the cloud floor.

Början stood there with a giant smile, feeling the happiest he had felt in his entire life. He watched their eyes full of surprise, incalculable happiness, and endless gratitude. He watched as they danced again first time in too long a time. He watched and sighed, feeling an uncomfortable prick of jealousy.

It was time to go.

He pulled aside one of the villagers mid-jump, and then explained, as slowly as possible and with as many hand gestures as he could fit, that Säkerhet was in that direction, and that once they were there, the Shadows would never bother them again, and they’d be able to live their lives again.

He stared intently at the eyes of the villager, wondering if his message had sunk in. Once he saw the brown eyes light up with hope and promises, he felt his heart burst with foreign excitement. The villager sprung ahead and called for his people to follow him with a shout and an eager wave of his hand.

They all went. All thirty-seven of them walking in a tight grey and brown bunch towards the rapidly setting sun and to their new lives in Säkerhet. Början watched them until they were no more than an ambiguous dot in the distance. Then he looked up at the darkening sky, a few stars were beginning to sprout. Stars of all different colors and sizes, shining jubilantly on this small planet.

Without another word he returned to his ship.

Ljus was waiting for him. Her hallways warmly lit by the light of his staff. He closed the doors, shut the blinds, returned to the pilot’s cabin, and ordered the ship to leave the planet.

She sailed through the dark blue sky against the light of the moon and the multitude of stars. It was a breathtaking sight, and it had been a fantastic afternoon, and yet there was a sour seed of emptiness in Början’s stomach.

He had wanted to join them. For a split second he wanted to forget his mission, abandon his staff, abandon Ljus, and join the villagers in Säkerhet. He wanted to renounce his life, dump the problems of the universe on someone else, and be free.

But he couldn’t. And he couldn’t keep doing this forever either. Rescuing planets and saving prisoners was noble and good, but Moln was only so big, the number of safe planets only so small, and the Shadows endless.

He felt a damp cold spread across his body as he realized what he had to do. He had to kill Ond.

Now that he had a working compass he could easily tweak it and chart a course to follow Ond’s massive battleship. His breathing accelerated and his mind worked furiously to negate what he had already decided: That this would only end with Ond’s death.

He took a shaky breath and set his eyes on the shining stars ahead. Without looking away, he slid a trembling hand in his coat pocket and withdrew an ice cold compass. He set it on the table, and got all of his tools in line.

He charted a course for his home planet, and then with a grunt, he sat at the table and got to work. His resolve strengthened by the minute. His hammer came down with loud clangs and his knife sliced fiercely through the silver plating and his eyes squinted in concentration. His heart beat furiously with the resolution to finish what he started, whether that ended with Ond’s death, or more likely, his own.

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