Mama's Pride - Part Six
Katlyn struggled to see past the pain that seared through her hand as Franky squeezed it without mercy. His face, she was able to see after blinking away some tears, twisted in a retched, inhuman manner; his eyes bulged, seemingly quivering in their sockets.
"What--" she gasped. "What do you--remember?"
The vice around her hand released, and Katlyn nearly fell from her chair to the floor. Doctor Laroque approached from the opposite side of the room, but backed off a ways when Katlyn shook her head. Katlyn tested her fingers, trying to extend them unsuccessfully. More pain shot through her hand and wrist, up her arm.
When she looked back at Franky, his hand had found the jar of peanut butter and begun to squeeze it instead. She didn't know if it was breakable or not for it wasn't plastic or glass but some material unfamiliar to her.
"Franky--just take a deep breath and relax."
Without warning Franky hurled the jar across the room where it thudded against the wall with enough force to knock the ship off course.
"Franky doesn't want to remember anymore!"
"I didn't know what to do," Katlyn said. "He was far too strong to restrain and talking to him didn't help. So I deferred to Cindy--Dr. Laroque--and she quickly moved to sedate him."
She fell silent then and Alex shared in her silence.
He wanted to touch her, to feel her warm skin against his, to lend her the support of just being in contact with another human being. But he remained where he was on the edge of the bed across from where she sat stiffly in the chair, contemplating the rest of her tale. How easy it would be to just reach out and place his hand over hers and yet it ended up being an impossible task to accomplish.
Katlyn shook her head as if to clear the memory. "I became curious after that. Well, I was curious already, but the incident sealed the curiosity in the forefront of my brain and I couldn't let it go. I knew Franky had been a general. And he was a well-respected one at that. So, what happened? And what was the source of the peanut butter fetish? All these questions and more rolled through my mind as I went to the Goog."
"Besides the pure dysfunctional bliss he gets from making everyone want to puke at the thought of peanut butter?" Alex asked, failing to lighten the mood. He blushed regretfully at the sad smile Katlyn gave him.
"I checked the archives," she went on. "Tons of news reports about General Frank Oswald painted him as the perfect man. Loved by all, could do no wrong--the people thought of him as the second coming. He was destined to save humanity from the Elders. It was so odd to find this powerful figure adored in the media. I read hundreds, maybe even thousands of articles and I couldn't find a single negative word about him until the incident. That just doesn't happen. There's always going to be people who fight the current of popular thought. Always you'll find news reports slanting things to suit some negative agenda, but I found nothing of the sort.
"So I went further back. I found stories of Franky all the way back to his trainee days when he'd saved a fellow trainee in a freak simulation accident that should have killed them both. Even I was starting to believe he was the second coming."
Alex nodded. He had a hard time picturing the Franky he knew with the Franky Katlyn painted.
"What happens to the perfect man, the perfect soldier, to have him wind up in his current state of mind on the run from the law? We know the League is still fighting Franky's battle, but their tactics are so opposite, so blasphemous when put up against Franky's history."
"Something huge," Alex said. "Something so..."
Katlyn finished his thought. "So horrific he couldn't live with himself any longer. He couldn't be General Frank Oswald."
"Oh, God," Alex whispered. He remembered what Katlyn undoubtedly remembered while she investigated Franky's past. During the news report about the aftermath of the League's bombing on the supposed military base that turned out to be a school, Franky had flipped out.
Franky doesn't kill children!
Katlyn saw in his eyes that he remembered and didn't bother bringing it up. Instead, she said, "Even worse."
"How does it get worse?"
"During the major battle with the Elders, Franky was commanding the entire fleet. All recon showed no signs of the Elders in the area, so Franky used the opportunity to reposition the fleet in an attempt to gain a surprise advantage over the Elders. The only problem was, half the ships were needed for escort duty as private sector civilian ships were shifting personnel to a new location. So Franky just had the twenty-five ships carrying families travel with the fleet. Move them both all at once.
"Halfway to their destination, the Elder fleet struck. Several of the civilian ships were destroyed immediately, before anyone knew what was happening. Then everything fell into chaos. The Elders' severed Franky's control over the fleet by using some sort of jamming device to effectively make communications within the fleet impossible.
"Franky was no fool, though. They had plans in place should such an event occur. None of those plans, however, took into account the civilian ships that needed protecting."
"How did he miss something that big?" Alex asked incredulously.
"Franky didn't. He drafted new plans because of the civilians but the orders were never sent--or at least never received. Later on, long after the war, several Elders were discovered working at key posts inside the human fleet, mucking everything up.
"When it became obvious the fleet scrambled in disarray in an attempt to deal with the Elders and protect the civilians, Franky knew something was wrong. Reports were flooding in about massive losses on the human side and Franky did his best to fend off the onslaught of Elder ships concentrating on his ship specifically.
"The signal for retreat should communications be impossible was a volley of missiles fired into the nearest moon. Should no uninhabited moon be near, orders were to retreat if the fleet had lost more than half its ships and the Elder numbers were more than twice the remaining ships in the fleet.
"Once the fleet began retreat maneuvers, Franky ordered his weapons officer to fire every last weapon they had loaded and hot. In the confusion, with so many reports hurled at him, and so many decisions needing immediate attention, Franky made the biggest mistake of his life. As he shouted out the coordinates for assault, he accidentally inverted the last two numbers. When the weapons officer hesitated, Franky shoved him out of the way and fired himself while issuing orders and listening to incoming damage reports. Any moments hesitation would have cost them potential damage to the Elders' fleet as his ship retreated, so Franky's choice to issue the command into the computer himself was purely academic. He wanted to deal a final blow to the Elders while he still had the chance. He never heard the weapons officer trying to warn him; he never saw the alarms flashing all over the screen on the console. All he saw as he took a brief glimpse to check the hit-damage ratio of the last volley was the destruction of ten civilian ships.
"News articles quoting people on the bridge at the time say Franky swallowed whatever knee-jerk reaction he was about to have and pushed on, getting the fleet away from the Elders and to a safe base for regrouping. Several present, however, noted a change in their general. His once unquestioning command in issuing a million different orders a second slowed. He seemed unsure of some of his choices, momentarily second-guessing himself. Later on, after the initial shock of the situation simmered down, those closest to Franky revealed the true nature of his hesitations. It wasn't the decisions he made or any doubting of his abilities. No, the reason Franky had seemed hesitant was that his mind raced on a single wavelength. One thought kept returning; one question needed priority brainpower. Of the ten civilian ships he'd destroyed, his mind kept plowing through the list of names trying to remember if one of those ships had contained his wife and children."
Alex closed his eyes. He knew the answer. There was no doubt at all that Franky had inadvertently killed his entire family. One mistake was all it took. One choice and fate was forever sealed. For Franky, that choice, that drive to perfection that ran his life ended up costing him everything.
This time Alex had no difficulty reaching out and taking Katlyn's hand in his.
To be continued...