"The stars don't twinkle up there," he'd said.
"Why not?" she'd asked, in the way five-year-olds do.
"Because there's no air. It's all the air moving that makes the stars twinkle."
"Oh," she's said, peering out through the window. "I see them twinkling."
He looked up at the intense black of the sky above him. These stars shone - not one of them twinkling.
After a pause she'd asked, "how will you breathe?"
"It's OK, baby. Our suits have air tanks. I'll be all right. Don't worry."
She'd frowned, fine lines appearing in her soft features.
"Why are you going there if there's no air?"
That was a hard one to answer. Then. Not now.
He lowered his gaze and scanned the, impossibly near, horizon. The outline of the mountain range up ahead was jagged, unsoftened by intervening atmosphere. It looked cold.
He'd smiled at her and hugged her close.
"Diamonds," he'd whispered. "I have to protect them."
Her eyes had grown wide. "Diamonds?"
He'd nodded and kissed her head before releasing her.
"Now, off you go to bed. I'll be back before you know it."
She'd run, with a laugh, and thrown herself onto her bed.
He'd left then. And now he was here.
It was a lie, of course. What he'd hoped to protect was far more precious than diamonds.
The comm sounded in his ear. "Look alive, target located. We move in five."
What he'd hoped to protect, but didn't. He didn't get back, not in time. The raiders had slipped away, had slipped behind them. He'd seen the reports, the devastation. Everything, everyone, gone.
He checked his gear, ensuring it would be ready. They'd tracked the raiders to this cold ball of rock, spinning all by itself, well away from the main trading lanes.
His turn now, and he was bringing hell with him.
Then it came. "Move out boys. Sweep and destroy."
He moved, his face grim.
"I'll be home soon, baby."