Alone. Leda is the last living member of the brigade, the sole defender of her world. War took everyone she knew, leaving her in the company of memories and ghosts. Or is it madness? The siren blares. The enemy is coming. Or is it? The approaching vessel isn’t a friendly design, but it answers with the correct code. Leda must figure out whether the arrival is reinforcements or the final assault. In an aging flyer, she ventures out to meet her world’s fate, the last stand.
Space opera. Novelette. 13,200 words.
Story Trailer by: TruNeVar
Trailer photo credits: Fantasy Stock, David Nieblack, NASA / NSSDC. See ‘Links’ for more.
Copyright 2011 M. Pax, all rights reserved
Rrr. Rrrrrr. RrrrRrrrrr. The claxon blasted through the outpost. Leda vaulted onto her feet, reaching for the rings hanging above her bunk. Empty berths above, below and beside hers lined the sloping walls of the dome, their hollow echoes adding to the siren’s cries pulsing over her nerves. Urgent. She readied for duty, the only one answering Baird Defense Station’s call to post, the last soldier standing.
One at a time, she plucked off the rings and activated them. When snapped into place, the circlets formed pieces of armor. Feet. Legs. Hips. Torso. Shoulders. Arms. Hands. She held off on the neck piece and helmet, and attached her weaponry next, the holster clicking in a lonely ricochet against the appropriate plates where magnets held it firm. The blaster powered up, priming.
Not yet fully awake, Leda stretched, cracking her neck one way then the other, not needing coherent thought to respond as the alarm demanded, grabbing onto things to transform her from guardian caretaker into consummate warrior. She snarled, ready to hit feral and fast, with an unbridled force she had sworn oath to when joining the brigade. A brigade which had contracted to one. To her.
Onto the protections shielding her legs and waist she affixed hand grenades, acid gums and cutter arrays. When fully armed, she moved her thick, shoulder-length braid, dark as the depths of space, out of the way and clacked on the band of neck armor. She slung the helmet ring over her holster and whirled toward the stairway to discover what danger threatened her and her world.
The air crackled with a buzz of baritone sound and sensation, prickles which strummed in Leda’s ears then along her spine, biting into her wrist and winding their way into her veins. Her head spun and suddenly the station roared with the bluster of the entire brigade springing up. Inert gears freed from an eternal sleep, their phantom boots thundered through the utilitarian corridors.
Ducts striped the walls horizontally and energy lines banded them vertically. Stairwells spiraled down into tubular passageways. Very few windows let in the raw sunlight illuminating the defensive outpost every twenty-nine hours. The march of Leda’s fallen unit burst past her. Rugar. Dris. All of the others.
The claxon blared louder. Leda blinked. She stood alone, tall and imposing, unspilled tears brightening her sometimes green, sometimes blue eyes, mourning once ago times.
Once ago, the brigade packed into all the spaces, jostling Leda and her rings as she struggled into her armor, drumming past her, limbs and shoulders knocking into hers. Her comrades carelessly aimed blasters and hurled insults, attempting to distill the trepidation of meeting a foe armed with overwhelming power and numbers, an enemy none of them had ever seen. The missiles and flyers hurled at Leda and her regiment were known well enough, but not the beings who launched them.
“Posterior Cava section, Leda.”
The protective armor around her neck made it impossible to nod, so she tapped on the helmet near her ear, but not hard enough to give herself a headache. “I heard, Rugar.”
“Call formations. You take Squadron Elseviar. See you when it’s all over.”
Her sometimes blue eyes stared at his armor-clad back burdened with weaponry, knowing she would lose him, but she hoped not today.
“Dris,” Leda called to a fellow female warrior, “back us up with that cannon.” Leda’s plated hand gestured at the weapon hoisted in a cavalier manner over Dris’s shoulder. “Let’s get it done.”
Leda led the charge out the hatch. They threw, they launched, they fired, ducked and rolled in perfect form and yet Elseviar and the other squadrons of Baird Defense Station did not find victory.
Over the ensuing decades, the outcome never changed. Defeat after defeat, the brigade dwindled into air. Now only Leda defended the station and the decimated world it orbited, drifting together toward ruin and the abyss.