The sky was a particularly beautiful shade of bright pink with lime green, yellow, grey and blue clouds.
The cheerful colours made Opa-Opa feel pleasantly exhilarated as he flew lazily through the Picknickean night sky, his wings bearing him on the wind current. He hadn't seen such a magnificent sunset for a while. This was how a sky was supposed to look. Bold, bright primary colours that stood out from the background, not dull, dismal colours that blended into each other like conformists too afraid to step forwards. A good sky lifted the mood and, if stared at long enough, elevated the consciousness and brought the wild, rapturous visions that earned this region of space its name - 'Fantasy Zone'. A good sky confused the enemy, who did not understand what it meant to look at such beautiful visions because they had already darkened their own sky long ago.
Opa-Opa was returning victorious from a skirmish raid against a Dark Menon attack force. Under the cover of one of the larger lime green clouds, he watched them pass right over his heads before bursting out and attacking them from the rear, then quickly darting out of the way of their answering volley, diving back into the clouds and approaching again from another angle. This was the way the living ships of the Opa race fought, tiny but swift and manoeuvrable, their lasers vapourising the enemy in a single shot.
As he docked at the landing bay of Opacity, the capital city of Fantasy Zone, his brother flapped over to greet him. They shared the day's stories of battle. Upa-Upa shared his brother's enthusiasm in their goal, to drive out the Menons and avenge their father, who had died in battle against the enemy. Opa-Opa had suffered a few light injuries to his hull, so he made his farewell to his brother and flew to the medical bay, where the medic, Opiuchus, examined him and made the necessary repairs with his surgical laser beam. There was nothing seriously wrong with him, so the old doctor shooed him away with the same advice as always:
“Stop overworking. You're putting way too much strain on yourself. You're the most advanced military bio-ship ever constructed, fully compatible with all the latest weapons systems, engines and shielding, but you're not invincible. You're irreplaceable, so take care of yourself, okay?”
“I can't rest until my father is avenged. You know that.” Opa-Opa told him.
“You can't avenge your father – or win this war – if you're dead.”
“We're not winning this war precisely because we float around doing nothing!” said Opa-Opa, “I spent today picking off small raiding parties when I could have been attacking their command centre!”
“You know nothing about long term strategy.” said Opiuchus, “That's why you're not in charge.”
“Actually, he's right.” said the calm voice of a much bigger Opa. It was Magnum Opus, the Admiral of the Opa fleet, “We're going to have to make a decisive strike soon. Opa-Opa, I've heard good news about today's battle.”
“A resounding success.” said Opa-Opa, his wings fluttering with pride.
“I knew I could depend on you.” said the Admiral, “I've been monitoring your performance, along with your brother. I believe you would be best suited to the new mission.”
“I want you to find the Dark Menon leader and take them out.” said the Admiral, “You will be provided with every resource at our disposal, even the clone labs. You have clearance to go anywhere in the Fantasy Zone.”
“What about backup?”
“I'm afraid you'll have to go alone. This is a stealth mission. You won't have a chance if the entire Menon force realises what you're doing.” said the Admiral, “Although your brother will be providing a distraction.”
Knowing Upa-Upa, the 'distraction' probably involved blowing things up in creative ways. He would be furious that he wasn't chosen for the mission. They had been made identically except for a different colour paint job; anything Opa-Opa could do, Upa-Upa was designed to do just as effectively. If I die, Opa-Opa thought in a sudden flash of morbid thinking, you'll probably be the next in line for the mission.
“You have until tomorrow morning to restock and say your farewells. The distraction happens at sun-up.” said the Admiral, “I advise you fetch a lot of extra fuel, you'll be making a long journey.”
“Yes, sir!” Opa-Opa dipped his wings in the Opa salute.
After making his preparations, Opa-Opa sat outside and gazed at the stars. His father didn't have a grave. His empty shell had been filled with fireworks and jettisoned off into space to explode at a safe distance, an airborne cremation. Exploding in a vast flurry of bright colours was the highest honour an Opa could receive. It meant rejoining the sky. Opa considered themselves children of the sky; why else were the Opa made with wings, if not to fly? Opa-Opa would never forget the day he saw his father's broken wings. He had seen wing injuries before but this was different. The wings weren't moving. An Opa's wings never really stopped moving while they were alive. Opapa had been a very large Opa – his son used to love burrowing under those huge wings to keep warm and safe from danger while he slept – but now he didn't look like he could protect Opa-Opa any more. The young Opa-Opa tried to nudge him back into consciousness but the medic took him somewhere on a trolley and said a lot of words like 'non-functional' and 'irreparable' and 'critical systems damage' that Opa-Opa didn't really understand. Only later, during the ceremony, did Opa-Opa understand. He had gone away for a long time after that. There wasn't a way he could go back to his everyday life. He needed time to think.
He had always preferred solitude when he needed to think about things; like now, when he was about to start his first big mission, the first mission that was critical to the success or failure to the Opa campaign of resistance against the Menon, a mission that meant flying alone into enemy territory, searching for something he had never seen before, had no idea where to find, was probably terrifying and could quite likely kill him without effort.
A school of large blue and green fish swam past him in line formation through the dark blue, yellow, purple and pink sky.