Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Last Stand

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

Maya trudged the vast rocky steppe under the crushing weight of her suit and equipment. It was bad enough they had to stop over on this planet and struggle against its gravity, why carry all this stuff she didn't want to use? She felt tiny under her gear, tiny before a horizon that was too far away to believe, tiny beneath a vast and sickly sky in which two alien navies fought at this very moment. The warships filled the sky. She kept herself under the Ku boss ship to minimize the odds of getting hit with debris. The thing was so massive it was unlikely to take a good beating. Still, she kept one eye on the sky.

"I'm so sick of this crap," she said to herself. How much war could the universe take? It was even her duty under the ship's charter for her to join in. To fire on the winning side, no matter who was winning. They were all enemies out here. To hell with all that. Get herself obliterated to make a token stand for humanity? She was seven days out from home. Who would know?

There came a shockwave that knocked her to the ground. What was it? Maya looked up. The sky was falling. That boss ship was somehow coming apart right above her head. Holy Shit! She thought. There was no escape, no way she could get out the hulk's way in time. Her training brought her hull-borer to her shoulder immediately. The situation had changed.

In cases of imminent death, it behooved her to fire all munitions rather than waste them. She targeted the biggest ship on the Bauda's side. Her missile would chew through the hull but for what? Human weapons were gnats, annoying the enemy wore than harming it. Her swollen-balled leaders demanded that every possible offensive action that could be taken, must be taken. Look where it had gotten them. Some of Maya's friends had even nick-named this world Last Stand. The leaders thought it was best to slam themselves against the wall of the enemy rather than do nothing, for the good of the people back home.

With seconds left under a quickly darkening sky, Maya angled her weapon toward the ground and fired. The missile chewed a tunnel into the rock that her helmet computer calculated at a half-mile deep. She slid down the too-hot hole and prayed. Getting out would be another matter, but she had more hull-borers. She wasn't going to save her people by dying. The only way to win was to survive.

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