Jaycob shot up out of bed. He was back in the same hospital bed, in the same room. He found it odd that he could see clearly even though his vision should be impaired, due to shards of glass getting blown into his pupils. Also, the room was darker than before. No lights were on and the medical droid was powered off. The same voice of Poe behind the door echoed again as it slid open. But behind it, lay nothing except one long corridor leading to another door. The path was dimly lit by the sparked flares that came standard for all pilot suits.
Seeing no other choice, Jaycob got out of bed and followed the trail. As he walked forward, the flares that he passed went out; leaving everything behind him black. Upon reaching the door, faint screaming could be heard coming from the other side. Jaycob's attempt at opening the door was deemed a failure, as he discovered that the control panel had been destroyed. Jaycob pressed his ear against the barrier to to try and match the voice with anyone he knew.
"Help! Someone help us! We need a medic!"
The voice sounded familiar, but it was so quiet that he still didn't know who was saying it. All he could figure out was that it was feminine. Whether it was Tallie, Jessika, or even General Organa, remained a mystery. Judging by the urgency in their tone, whoever was on the other side was in immediate danger. In response, Jaycob looked around furiously to find something to possibly pry it open. Again, his attempts rendered unsuccessful, forcing him to resort to just pounding on it with his fists and legs.
"Hey! Can you hear me?"
He cried out.
But the door wouldn't budge, and Jaycob was starting to get tired from trying to forcefully open it. Jaycob slumped to the ground, back against the unbreakable entrance, and buried his face in his hands. He couldn't describe where he was or what was happening, but it felt...artificial. This was truly his greatest fear: not being able to help someone in need. There was only one way to go, and the path was blocked. His eyes began to feel heavy, signaling that he felt extremely tired. He closed his eyes again, hoping it would all just fade away.
Beep. Beep. Beep. The same heart monitor. Jaycob opened his eyes to the same scenario, except this time, far more bright. It was only a nightmare. The lights were on and the medical droid was roaming around the room tending to other patients. This time, the medical bay was filled with injured, both engineers and pilots alike. The medical droid, noticing Jaycob woke up, approached him.
"Hello again, sir."
Again? Jaycob was struck with confusion. He was sure that the hangar explosion was just part of his imagination, just like the unbreakable door marked with flares. Before he could process what was going on, the door to his right opened and in walked Jessika. The first thing she did was grab Jaycob's hand.
"I am...so sorry Jay."
"Sorry for what?"
A still-confused Jaycob questioned. Jessika looked just as puzzled as he did.
"Are you alright?"
"Uhh...I'm pretty sure I am."
Jessika's face still kept the same expression. A weird sensation came from Jaycob's eyes, bothering him to the point where he had to rub it. She tried to stop him, but it was too late. As soon as Jaycob's hand touched his eyelid, a fierce burning pain engulfed his pupils. It felt as if someone had kicked sand into them, which only got worse every time he blinked.
He whispered. Then, it dawned on him. The hangar wasn't a nightmare. It had actually been destroyed along with the fleet. Along with Tallie. A flood of emotions swirled around in Jaycob's head: sorrow, hatred, and confusion being some of them. He didn't want to believe it was true. He wanted to believe that he just poked his eye and that it wasn't still tender from having recent glass-removal surgery. He clawed at every little piece of hope he had left in Tallie still being alive. Finding it hard to breathe he said,
"Jess...please tell me...where's Tallie?"
He felt himself starting to choke up.
She let go of his hand and reached for something in her back pocket, struggling to hold back tears.
"Once the hangar was stabilized, I went in there to assess the damage."
"I managed to find this."
She pulled out a half-burnt, ripped piece of off-white fabric and handed it to him. At first, Jaycob was perplexed about what it could be. But seeing a tear trail from Jessika's eye made it clear. It was Tallie's synthsilk scarf, or what was left of it. Somehow it had been spared from the carnage. Jaycob grabbed it slowly, still taking everything in. He could sense his own tears taking form.
He whimpered. Jessika lost it, bawling into her hands. Jaycob took one final look at the fabric before he did the same. The night on D'Qar flashbacked into his mind; the trees, the stars, and Tallie's head on his shoulder. Being one of the few memories he's had with her, Jaycob cherished every second. He remembered the first time they had met face-to-face, when she comforted him after losing most of Blue squad in the invasion of Starkiller. He remembered first laying eyes on her and knowing immediately, he was in love. He remembered kissing her for the first time in front of his old A-Wing, and realizing just how hard she kissed him back. He remembered flying right next to her, moments before the Dreadnought attack run and winking at her, knowing that he was about to fly into likely destruction. He remembered how she had grabbed his hand as he was being carried away to the medical bay, and him just being happy knowing she made it back safe and sound. He remembered waking up in his hospital bed, with her soft breathing caressing his neck when she visited him, snuggling up close to keep herself warm.
Then he remembered, that it hadn't even been two days.
Jessika slouched into a stool next to his bed, still sniffling, wiping her eyes with her gloves. Trembling, she said,
"I know you loved her Jaycob..."
Sobbing, he replied,
"Loved her? I thought that I was going to marry her."
He pulled the scarf closer and covered his eyes with it. The smell of Tallie, mixed with smoke, still lingered, bringing back more nostalgia. The scarf absorbed most of his tears, but not all. Streaks of water dripped onto his chest, mixing with the dried blood from earlier, changing the drops from clear to translucent light-pink. They didn't make it far down Jaycob's flight suit before they were caught in the fabric and seeped through.
"Once this was over..."
Jaycob struggled to keep his train of thought,
"...I was going to make her mine, like the Wexley's..."
Jaycob's voice faltered. He couldn't believe she was truly gone. What made things worse was that the blue and white A-Wing, flipped upside down, was the last thing he would ever see of her.
"I would have liked to see you two together."
Jessika said, trying to comfort him. However, it only made Jaycob feel more melancholy than before. He would have liked to see them together too. Being the last remnant of Tallie he had left, he folded the fabric scrap and placed it into his flight suit chest pocket, right over his heart.
The eye surgery went well and Jaycob was clear to leave, even though he still had a broken rib from when Poe sandwiched him against a wall. Jessika suggested they go to the common area to clear their minds, but Jaycob refused, opting to go to the hangar's wreckage instead. A small memorial had been set up at the entrance, with a hand-written list of all the lives lost during the attack. Around the top of the list read:
"Head Engineer - Jax Anthrop"
It was in alphabetical order based on last names. The lengthy list was large enough to stretch through two pages, Tallie being towards the end.
"Blue Leader - Cpt. Tallissan Lintra"
Finding her name on the list gave Jaycob a feeling of emptiness inside. He moved forward into the actual hangar, Jessika following close behind. A clean-up had already begun for the ships and their pilots. White sheets had been placed over those who weren't entirely disintegrated by the explosion. Upon the debris, he saw what he thought was his B-Wing cockpit, charred to the touch. He thought of how foolish it was that he was assigned another squad, yet it was destroyed faster than his last. It didn't matter now; the squads of White, Black, and Blue had been turned into nothing but scrap metal.
After a few minutes of contemplation, Jaycob exited through the same door that he had been forcefully thrown into several hours before, passing the memorial once again. Seeing the dried blood trail next to it, presumably from himself, Jaycob tried to recall what exactly happened. He asked Jessika,
"Jess, where were you when the hangar was attacked?"
She took a moment to gather her thoughts,
"Umm...after the debrief, I stuck around for a while on the bridge, talking to Leia. I guess I took too long."
"So, you weren't the one that dragged me away?"
She looked downwards.
"Once I was about a few steps away from that door..."
she pointed at the doorway,
"...I saw you get thrown against the wall. The blast knocked me off my feet, but only left a couple bruises. I got back up and tried to bring you away from the hangar, but you kept resisting. You were like, crawling towards it...towards her."
Jaycob remembered. Being temporarily blinded, all he tried to do was get to Tallie. If he were to die, he wanted to do so right next to her. Jessika looked back up at him and repeated the same phrase she gave earlier,
"I'm so...sorry. I can't bel-"
Jaycob interrupted her with a heartfelt hug. She stopped talking, and hugged him back, letting a few more tears land on his shoulder. Jaycob only felt grateful to have such a loyal friend who would risk her life to save his. Letting go, Jaycob spoke first,
"I should be the one apologizing. I'm sorry for arguing with you on D'Qar and during the evacuation. I should consider myself lucky, knowing that I have such an amazing friend like you."
They both forced weary smiles onto their faces. With Tallie gone, she was the only trace of true happiness he had left. Jessika was like a sister to him. He promised himself right then and there, that he wouldn't let anything happen to her.
"Thanks Jay, I feel the same way."
Afterwards, the two ended up going to the secondary bridge. There was an emergency meeting called about the new shift in leadership after General Organa, along with many other Resistance leaders perished as the main bridge of the Raddus had been destroyed; all at the hands of Kylo Ren. Jessika and Jaycob sat next to each other in the back row, awaiting the announcement. Looking past their previous argument, Jaycob thought Poe would become the new acting general since he was one of the only high-ranking and well-trusted members of the Resistance left. However, he was mistaken.
"General Organa, Admiral Ackbar, our leadership, it's all gone."
said Commander Larma D'Acy.
"There were no survivors on the bridge."
It was a tough pill to swallow. The non-combatant crew members, both veteran and new alike, were dead. This only added fuel to Jaycob's never-ending fire of hatred toward Kylo Ren, that sparked the moment he heard news of Jakku. Kylo had killed his brother, his lover, and his squad all within the span of a few days. He took everything Jaycob had ever loved away, leaving him with nothing but a thirst for blood. D'Acy continued,
"If she were here, Leia would say, 'Save your sorrow for after the fight.' To that end, she left clear instructions as to who should take her place in case something like this ever happened. Someone she's always trusted, and who has her full confidence."
Everyone could have sworn Poe was going to be chosen, so it came as a surprise that Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo was the one to step into the spotlight.
"Thank you commander."
She dismissed D'Acy.
"Look around you. Four hundred of us. We are the last of the Resistance, but we're not alone. In every corner of the galaxy, the downtrodden and oppressed know our symbol and have put their hope in it."
Four hundred? That's all that were left? Jaycob couldn't believe it. He didn't even listen to the rest of her monologue, seeing it as just another empty pep talk. Poe stood up and approached the new General when she was finished, leaving Jaycob and Jessika at their seats.
"Why wasn't Poe chosen?"
Jessika asked, flabbergasted.
"I guess Leia and Holdo have some history. Still though, Poe was like the son she wished she had."
The two got up and exited the bridge. There wasn't much the pilots could do without their starfighters, so they were confined to wandering around the vessel aimlessly, helping where they could.
Tallie still floated around in Jaycob's head every now and then, bringing him sadness for frequent periods of time. Especially when Jessika had asked innocently what his plans were post-war.
"I haven't really thought about it, I guess. All I know is Tallie would be part of it."
She replied gloomily. Trying to avoid more sorrow, Jaycob asked,
"How about you? Did you have plans after all this?”
As he gestured toward the, almost fully cleaned, hangar. It wasn't a surprise that they ended up there again, since most of the help was needed in cleaning the debris. They were sitting on an empty storage container, taking a break from their labor. A smile flashed across Jessika's face as if she were waiting for him to ask.
"Mmm...well I would like to have the freedom to do whatever, or go wherever, I want. But, definitely not back to Dandoran."
She replied, causing Jaycob to remember her ugly past.
"I don't know. I guess like you, I never really had a chance to think about it. But one thing's for sure."
"Yeah? What's that?"
"I'd like to get my damn X-Wing back."
She laughed at herself, managing to bring the slightest amusement to Jaycob's face.
"Well, whatever it is we do, we'll have each other's backs, right?"
"Always Jaycob, always."