Author's Note - Hi! :) To anyone who cares, I promise I'm still working on my other story "A Love Made Infinite," but I felt the need to get this idea out of my system. I apologize beforehand if it stinks. :d I don't own Toy Story or Pixar.
It was eerily quiet; so unlike the bustling colony that had been established here months ago. What fools they'd been, he thought bitterly as the wind whistled through the abandoned buildings. How thoughtless, how arrogant it was to think they could have defended this planet from the power-hungry menace that was Zurg.
"It's worse than I thought it would be," Mira muttered, her eyes reflecting the lifeless gray of their surroundings. Everything in sight bore the signs of a cataclysmic disaster; one orchestrated, he knew, by the most recent technological advances The Emperor could get his hands on. War technology that had been, undoubtedly, reserved for the facilities at Star Command. It would have stayed a secret had it not been for that worthless traitor whom they discovered working for Zurg all along.
Buzz's jaw clenched as he climbed through a swamp filled with chemical waste and rusting metal. They had finally discovered the only habitable world (what they dubbed Nueva) besides earth, and in their eager rush to colonize it, it now lay in smouldering ruins. A certain way to kill any morale the base had conjured up.
They had lost many good men in the attack. Now hundreds of families, wives and children, were mourning their losses next to empty coffins. No bodies, no documents...nothing remained. Nothing but evidence of a human experiment failed miserably.
Buzz was interrupted from his thoughts when his wrist communicator beeped. "Well soldier, it looks like there's nothing here to collect. I say we get back to the ship; don't want our fuel cells to run dry."
He groaned inwardly, hating to hear defeat in Mira's voice. The episode had taken a toll on them all. He yearned for the days when XR and Booster would join them on some just-for-kicks mission, when their only trouble was getting caught in an asteroid belt.
Buzz sighed in exasperation. "I guess you're right. Commander Nebula won't want to hear the news, but it's inevitable. This place might as well be a black hole." The two rangers turned around, heading back to their ship. Still hoping that there was some artifact they could salvage, Buzz's eyes continued to comb over the destruction.
If there was one thing he could be thankful for in this situation, it was that no earthlings had been brought here yet to "settle the frontier." Only men who had applied to Star Command, knowing full well the peril and risk involved, lost their lives. They had died soldiers, not innocent civilians deceived by the thrill of adventure.
His thoughts immediately turned to his girl back home, the red-headed country woman he'd met at a NASA conference in Houston. At a glance, she and her warm accent seemed out of place amidst all those scientists and explorers; but in her eyes glimmered a lust for knowledge and travel. It took one conversation with her to make him realize he'd been waiting a lifetime to find a girl like her. Someone who was down-to-earth and charming the only way a Westerner could be, but was also hiding a willpower so strong it could bend iron. She had revealed her heart to him, everything from a painful past to her love of animals to her dreams of being an astronaut, and he knew he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.
Ever since he met her, she'd been dying to take a trip into space; and the moment she heard of planet Nueva, she was determined to go. How grateful he truly was that they had pushed back the date set aside for bringing people here. Zurg would have liked to wiped out Nueva while the colonists were on it, Buzz knew; but at least in that area he had lost. They could recruit more men, they could rebuild the facilities; and his Jessie was still alive and well waiting for him on her cozy little ranch. They would win in the end.
About twenty feet away from their ride, Mira paused, fixating her gaze on a pile of metal in the distance.
"Wait a minute, Buzz," she stated, holding out her arm. "I think we'd better investigate this."
Nodding in agreement, he followed her towards the pile. As they approached it, Buzz felt nausea sweep through his abdomen. That was steel lying before them, twisted into almost serpentine shapes.
Mira knelt next to a particularly damaged piece, her face lined with intrigue. Meanwhile Buzz occupied himself with uncovering a large hunk.
"Mira, I-I think there's some kind of graphic identification on here."
She strode over to him, smirking. "Why can't you just use normal words, like 'logo?'"
"I'm trying to make it sound like we know what we're doing. You should thank me."
They struggled for several seconds with the steel plate, at last managing to heave it out from all the others. They dropped it into the soil with a dull thud. "Well, congratulations, Buzz," she remarked. "We just tore our shoulders apart to inspect this thing and all that's on it is the Star Command insignia. Buzz?"
She suddenly realized the look of sheer horror splattered on his face. In all the time she had known him, even during bouts of tremendous danger, she had never seen his expression so dire. It scared her.
"Buzz, what's wrong?" She peered over his shoulder, watching as his fingers traced a set of numbers over and over.
Mira ran the figure through her mind repeatedly, confused as to its significance. Why had it caused her friend so much distress?
She swallowed a grunt of frustration. "Is this something I should know about, Buzz? Some kind of code I was never alerted to?"
His broad shoulders were trembling. She noted his head shake just slightly, as in disbelief.
"They-they had to have gotten the orders! We sent them out a week ago..."
Mira couldn't take anymore. "Tell me what's going on, Light-year! If I should know, I don't, so excuse my ignorance. What does A113 mean?"
He closed his fists, clenched them fiercely. "It...it was the number. The number of the-the cargo ship...meant to transport civilians."
Her brow furrowed. "How could that be? That trip was delayed for months!"
"The solar storm...it could have interfered with communications..."
Mira stared into the distance, realization slowly hitting her. "You're saying-"
Buzz collapsed to his knees before the plate, teeth gritted. "They shipped them here...they-they weren't alerted of the delay."
Her eyes widened in shock. No, it couldn't have happened. That would mean-
"Jessie...was on that ship."
The entire universe seemed to halt in its tracks. Mira Nova, of all the other rangers, knew how much Jessie meant to Buzz. There were days on the job when she caught him staring out into the stars, knowing he wasn't focused on his paperwork. There were the times when she would drop into his office for a five-minute chat, finding him gazing lovingly at a framed picture of him holding hands with her on the beach. And above all else, only she knew of the tiny black box hidden away in his desk.
Mira's heart constricted. Buzz was strong, and faithful - the one anchor that held when all the others didn't. And now she knelt at his side, watching him crumple like paper under the weight of his grief.
The two friends sat together in reverent silence for a long time. Buzz hardly made a sound...but his tinted visor hid the tears streaming from his eyes. The love of his life was gone.
He could not help but think of her brother Woody, who was also the town sheriff and his best friend. Buzz remembered the fights the siblings used to have about Jessie going to space; Woody had tried to reason with her, but she refused to listen. She was so resolute, so determined to do what she wanted...that was why he loved her, after all. Nothing would have kept her from boarding that ship.
Buzz was so caught up in his guilt and regret that he didn't notice Mira's gasp of shock. Even when she slowly stood up and tread away, he didn't bat an eye. It took her frantically calling his name to finally rouse him.
"Hold on! Buzz, I think I found an...I think I found an underground bunker! I don't know if anyone is down here or not, but we need to check!"
The space man, forcing his emotions aside, jumped to his feet. They were still on duty, and if any lives could be saved, it was their job.
Did he dare hope that Jessie was down there, still breathing?
Buzz raced over to the fox-hole and leaped in after her, immediately swallowed up by darkness. He switched the ruby laser on his arm to the lowest setting, just so he could see where the tunnel would lead. He could hear Mira's footsteps pounding the ground up ahead, synching with the hammering in his ears. Soon, they both picked up noises - and what relief to find that they were human voices, calling for help!
"I don't believe it," said Mira, halting as she realized there were suit-clad people here. "They managed to build a bomb shelter before Zurg attacked. Buzz, I think all the civilians are here!"
Buzz wasn't sure what to think. Moments before, he thought Jessie was lost forever - but any one of the astronauts stuck down here could be her. A sudden feeling of desperation struck him when he recalled her fear of dark, cramped places. How did she manage all this time, with all these strangers, without having horrific panic attacks? Even if he did find her, she might be scarred for life. But before Buzz could look for her, they had to get these people out of here. Their oxygen supplies were most likely running low.
Buzz called in for Star Command to send several more ships to the planet, so they could take them all home. He could sense the joy in Commander Nebula's voice at the news...but to Buzz, there was still plenty to be worried about.
A short while later, the ships arrived. The rangers took census of the civilians, finding they were all present and accounted for. After everyone got rid of their outer suits, Buzz scanned the entire room for a head of scarlet hair. Despair threatened to choke him at any point if he didn't find her. Then, finally, all his inner turmoil faded. There, near the left wall, his eyes finally landed on Jessie.
Buzz nearly tripped over his own feet, he scrambled so fast. He found himself running faster than he ever had in his whole life.
Jessie's forest green eyes met his cerulean ones, and Buzz knew at that moment a star somewhere exploded. She gave a surprised cry, soon dashing to meet him halfway. In a matter of seconds, Buzz was clutching her to his chest. Jessie folded her arms around his torso in a vice-like grip, digging her fingers into the fabric of his uniform. Mindlessly, he worked the bow around her braid loose, running his fingers through the wavy strands.
"I didn't think you'd find me," she whimpered.
Buzz pulled her even closer, kissing the matted yarn on top of her head.
"And I thought I lost you."
They broke their embrace just to share a passionate kiss; a kiss that proved their devotion to each other, their need to be together. It would have lasted much longer had they not been wanting of breath.
Jessie poured her gaze into his once more, and Buzz smiled back. Normally she would have teased him about his looking up at her, but there were more important things to say.
"I love you so much," she whispered, gently placing her forehead against his.
Buzz closed his eyes and dropped a kiss on the tip of her nose. "I love you too."
The emotional onlookers around them, particularly Mira, broke into a round of applause for the reunited couple; but neither the space ranger nor the cowgirl seemed to notice. All thoughts of loss, of victory, of space, and even Zurg left Buzz's mind. The only thing that mattered to him then and there was that she was okay. And God forbid that he let one more day go by without giving her that tiny black box hidden away in his desk.