Two roiling suns scorched the desert landscape as the gaunt man stumbled toward the bivouac site. Commodore Tina Morales wiped the sweat off her brow and took another glimpse through her binos. More bone than man, the colonist seemed almost feral. His shredded and grimy olive drab coveralls hung from his skeletal frame like a parachute.
The commodore had planned to send an expedition out to New Roanoke within forty-eight hours. She’d wanted to go sooner, but her command team had needed time to analyze the probes’ data.
Keying the comms device secured around her right ear, she said, “Reaper Six, this is Falcon Six, SITREP. Over.”
“Falcon Six. Reaper Six. Wait one,” Colonel Carlson replied.
She rolled her eyes. Space marines. Any chance they had to assert their authority over a fleet officer, they took it. Still, she was the highest-ranking officer on the expedition. Her only crime was she wasn’t a space marine, but she played along, because she needed them more than they needed her. “Reaper Six. Standing By.”
“Falcon Six. Identified male survivor at five-point-zero klicks and closing. Permission to engage with lethal force?”
Carlson had always been trigger happy, but this request was absurd. She was convinced he was the wrong man for this mission. She needed a ground commander who saw the world in shades of gray, not through a black and white prism.
She keyed her comms device. “Negative. Stand down. Acknowledge.”
“Negative. Contact could be infected. Over.”
An alien pathogen was a logical hypothesis. Over the last fifty years, something had reduced the colony’s population from the two hundred and fifty souls on the original colony ship’s manifest to fewer than ten.
What Morales found even more intriguing were the thousands of heat signatures remote probes had detected beyond the eastern mountains, but remote DNA spectral analysis had determined there was no human genetic material there, so Admiral Chu had limited operations to within fifty klicks of New Roanoke.
The intel was a one-time deal. The United Earth Ship Eldridge would be moving on toward the nearest star in twenty-four hours. After that, the expedition would be on its own and Morales would be in charge.
“Reaper Six. Engage with stun weapons only. Acknowledge.”
A long pause followed. “Acknowledged.”
“Reaper Six. Give me a SITREP in fifteen minutes. Out.”
Two six-wheeled mobiles carrying a space marine platoon streamed past. The marines seemed frisky this morning, almost too frisky. They’d never operated in a one-point-one gee environment before, and she worried their bodies might break before their enthusiasm did.
Morales surveyed the horizon. She still couldn’t get over seeing two suns in Alpha Centauri Prime’s sky, and knowing that somewhere out there laid the answer to the great mystery that had spurred her parents to leave Earth in an interstellar generation ship forty-four years earlier. Three quarters of the crew had been born in space, and this was the first time most of them, including her, had ever set foot on a terrestrial surface.
The starveling huddled in a field tent about a hundred meters from the marines’ mobile compound. Morales entered the tent with the marine battalion’s intelligence officer, Captain Aram Berberian. Both wore their sleek light-refracting environmental suits and protective masks. Three folding chairs surrounded a square table dominating the tent’s center.
The horse-faced man rocked in his metal chair at an irregular cadence, his balding skull cradled in his arms. Morales looked at Berberian. “Has he been treated for heatstroke?”
Berberian nodded. “Yes, ma’am. He’s fine. A lack of water isn’t his problem.”
“Well, he didn’t survive out here without eating something. I wonder what’s changed,” she said.
Pulling out a nutrition bar, she offered it to the man. He stared at the offering with bloodshot eyes sunk deep in black sockets. The tent was so quiet she could hear her heart beating. Then the man lurched forward, snatched the bar and devoured it.
“What happened to your settlement?” Berberian asked. “Why did it stop sending signals to earth?”
She held up her hand: too many questions. They needed to ease him into the interrogation.
Berberian tried again. “We’re just here to help. Why weren’t you with the other colonists?”
The man remained silent, twitching and rolling his eyes.
“Look, we’ve come to investigate what happened here,” she said, “We haven’t heard from your people in over forty years. If I can’t get answers from you, I’m gonna send marines into your settlement to find out myself. My marines are among the finest, but they make mistakes too. I’d hate for someone to get hurt because of a simple misunderstanding.”
The survivor looked down. His twitching intensified. “P-P-Please don’t. Your men could get infected.”
Inclining her head toward Berberian, she said, “I’ll be damned. Carlson was right.”
“As you can see,” she said to the colonist, gesturing at her environmental suit, “we’re prepared for that. Unless you cooperate, we’re going to the colony.”
The colonist’s twitching escalated to quaking. His eyes rolled into the back of his head. Then he bit her, ripping a hole into her suit and savaging her arm before she could knock him to the ground.
Her heart raced, but she took a deep breath. “Captain Berberian, as of fifteen hundred hours local time, you and I are on quarantine. Order a detachment to seal off this field tent. Radio Major Jones, report the incident, and request full medical examinations for both of us.”
Berberian did as instructed, and Major Jones arrived within the hour.
“Commodore Morales, my apologies for the delay. We had to erect secondary and tertiary containment structures around the field tent.”
“What happened to him?” Jones pointed at the unconscious man.
“I gave him a little love pat after he took a chunk out of my arm.” She smirked.
Jones nodded. “Commodore Morales, please remove your environmental suit.”
“You sure that’s a good idea?”
“If this man’s carrying anything, you already have it. Your suit’s just gonna get in the way.”
“Fair enough.” She removed her suit, and then turned her head toward Berberian. “What about him?”
“Did the subject bite him too?”
“Then it’s unlikely he’s been exposed. His suit stays on.”
Jones pulled out a foot-long cylinder the thickness of a human thumb. “Stand at attention,” he said to her.
“Aren’t I supposed to say that to you?” she said. The humorless doctor showed no reaction. He pressed a button on his device and a light source emanated from it, scanning her from head to toe. The doctor projected an image of her vital functions in the air accompanied by a detailed readout of her medical condition.
“Am I okay, doc?”
“Stand by,” the major said as he processed the medical information. “Respiratory and cardiovascular systems are operating within normal parameters. Lymphatic and endocrine systems are also functioning normally. No signs of any harmful astro-bacteria. No foreign toxins in your system. It looks like you have a clean bill of…wait a minute. What’s this?”
Morales tried to hide her anxiety. “I’m going to need a little bit more than that, major.”
Jones pointed at the hologram. His thumb and forefinger grasped the three-dimensional cross section of her skull like a pincer, and then released it to expand the image. Jones pressed an icon below the hologram and a detailed rendering of her brain appeared. Jones pointed at two almond-shaped structures above the brain stem. “See these microscopic growths here on your amygdalae?”
“Your amygdalae. These two kidney-shaped structures process emotions and help store long-term memories.”
“Bottom line this for me, doc.”
“Well, ma’am, the good news is that the virus in your system is dormant. The bad news is that it’s triggered the growth of these nodules, and I don’t know when they’ll stop growing. While their growth rate has decelerated, I’m going to insist you confine yourself to quarters until I can ensure your safety.”
“Is it contagious?”
“Yes. You can transmit it from exposure to your blood or via sexual intercourse,” Jones said.
“If I don’t go around biting people, mixing blood with them, or sleeping with them, can it spread?”
“Well, technically, no, but I insist that…”
“Negative, doc. That’ll be all. Dismissed.”
Jones turned to Berberian, but Berberian just shrugged.
“Major, I gave you an order. Dismissed!”
Jones snapped to attention, rendered his salute, and left.
By the time Alpha Centauri Prime’s primary sun pierced the horizon, the marines’ mission to New Roanoke was well underway. Morales had decided to tag along despite Colonel Carslon’s protests.
Major Jones was required to keep her medical diagnosis confidential, but Captain Berberian wasn’t, and rumors of her medical prognosis had spread through the marines like a virus.
Morales shared a mobile with a marine squad, and the marines kept their distance. They were a superstitious bunch, but she decided not to force the issue. That they didn’t panic when she entered their mobile was an encouraging sign.
The mission objective was to secure a facility on the colony’s outskirts. Towering above the colony’s other buildings, the structure’s solitary and soot-encrusted smokestack stretched toward the sky. Remote probes had indicated that the settlement’s remaining heat signatures were concentrated there. Twenty-four mobiles carrying nearly three hundred marines, or nearly two-thirds of all combat power on Alpha Centauri Prime, headed toward the objective. It seemed like overkill to Morales, but she deferred operational planning to Carlson as he was the expert on such matters.
A small marine contingent had cleared out an adjacent outbuilding before she arrived. She listened to the radio traffic as they reported their discovery: an empty arms room with storage racks designed for stun weapons and rail guns.
Her mobile positioned itself fifty meters from the facility’s hanger doors several minutes later. Through her mobile’s periscope, Morales watched as the rear exit ramps of two nearby mobiles dropped to the ground and two marines lumbered through the gravity soup toward the hanger.
They attached explosive gel on a locked hanger door, embedded a quantum sensor in the gel and trudged away from the target. Seconds later, a rectangular, man-sized breach burned through the door.
“Falcon Six. Reaper Six. I’m taking a team into the building. SITREP to follow. Over.”
“Reaper Six. Falcon Six. Roger. Out.”
She watched the five men disappear into the facility, and waited.
“Falcon Six. There’s something you need to see.”
“Reaper Six. Report.”
“Negative. You need to see this in person.”
Morales found Carlson’s request out of character. He normally didn’t bother to filter his thoughts. She descended the ramp of her dark mobile, the blinding light and blistering heat of the planet’s primary sun overloading her senses.
She plodded toward the breach, and entered, stumbling as her eyes adjusted again to the darkness. The area stank of rot and putrescence.
“Commodore Morales, over here!” Carlson shouted.
She followed his voice, while her eyes struggled to adapt. A vision of the factory slowly coalesced. Metallic meat hooks dangling above stainless steel troughs lined the ceiling in orderly rows. A conveyor system wended its way through the plant, culminating in a human-sized, cube-shaped machine. A single steel platform rose above the plant floor.
At the far end of the facility, the marines were assembled in a horseshoe. Carlson turned his head. His eyes locked with hers, then he looked away and pointed beyond the semicircle of fazed marines.
Huddled, shaking, and emaciated, the kids were nothing but bone bags covered in tatters. There were five: three boys and two girls. Their ages seemed to range from about three to twelve. All had haunted looks in their eyes, the veneer of innocence long since corrupted, twisted, and exposed for a lie. They reeked of filth.
Morales labored to remain calm despite overwhelming feelings of nausea. “Colonel Carlson, get these children to a medic.”
Carlson nodded and relayed the order over the net. Five more marines arrived and escorted the children outside. Carlson gestured toward those who remained. “Clear out the rest of this shit hole. Send a SITREP every ten minutes.”
The marines saluted and moved out. Carlson turned back to her. “Your orders?”
She wasn’t expecting that. She was hoping she’d have some personal time to get herself together.
“Let’s see what your marines learn,” she said, “then we’ll decide what to do next. Once we get those children some medical attention and food, we’ll ask them what happened here.”
“Those children need some serious psychological help. They need an interrogation like I need the clap.”
“Well that shouldn’t be a problem since you’ve already got it, Carlson.”
Carlson chuckled, but then his voice took on a more serious tone. “Commodore, what is this place?”
“Some kinda slaughterhouse.” She pointed at the meat hooks. “The colonists probably hung the animals up there and let the blood collect into the troughs below. I’ll betcha dollars to donuts that whatever they ate had something to do with those thermal signatures beyond the mountains.”
Carlson nodded, but his eyes seemed elsewhere. “Why would anyone bring children here? What kinda sick fuck does that?”
“The kind we already have in custody.”
“Don’t get any ideas,” she said, then pointed at the block-shaped machine, “Any idea what that’s for?”
“No clue. All I know is that the spectral analysis my marines ran on it showed an unusually high concentration of arsenic. Seven hundred times higher than the arsenic concentration in the surrounding soil, which is fifty times higher than Earth’s.”
The battalion net squawked with a transmission. “Reaper Six. This is Warlock Three. You gotta see this, sir.”
Carlson glanced at her and then extended his arm in a direction leading deeper into the facility. “Ladies first.”
The two walked past rows of meat hooks until they reached a massive steel partition. Making their way through the partition door, they passed several tables holding a variety of worn cutting and carving implements.
“Warlock Three. Reaper Six. Talk to me.”
“Reaper Six. We’re inside a refrigeration unit. Break. Once you pass through the first partition, there’re double doors at the far right end of the building. Break. You’ll find us there.”
“Acknowledged, Warlock Three. We’re on the way. Out.”
Morales saw the double doors ahead. She advanced slowly, her curiosity pushing her forward, but a sense of foreboding holding her back.
She pushed open the doors to find the four marines at the rear of the refrigeration unit. Scores of frosted blue-scaled torsos dangled from meat hooks.
She found the sight unsettling, but no more disturbing than the beef held on meat lockers on the Eldridge. Yet, the marines at the far end of the corridor stood sullenly, facing away from their discovery.
“C’mon, it’s just lizard meat,” Carlson said, appearing to have rediscovered his swagger.
“It ain’t about the lizard meat, sir,” a marine said, then he pointed up. “This is why we called.”
She looked up and saw more torsos. Human torsos.
“Who murdered those people, you twisted bastard?” Berberian said, leaning toward the man the children called “Uncle Tom”.
“Why’d you lie about the pathogen?” Morales asked.
The colony’s sole adult survivor stared into space. She was losing hope. The man refused to talk no matter what they did, and the children hadn’t been much better. They’d only offered their names and identified Tom. Otherwise, they were all but comatose.
She pounded her fists on the table. “Dammit! Why are there human remains in the meat locker?”
Tom smiled. His eyes locked on hers. Fear. Anger. Vengeance. A train of images followed. The abattoir. Reptilian heads on hand carts. Men in coveralls beating on Tom. Squat, light-blue reptilians firing rail guns at men. The torrent of images assailing her mind faded as suddenly as they began, but she felt a lingering sense of revulsion.
Tom broke his silence with maniacal laughter. “You fools!” He giggled. “They’re coming! He-he! They’re coming! Ha-ha!”
“Who’s coming?” Berberian said.
“You’ll see! And you’ll be sorry you ever messed with ‘ole Tom Ehrlicher.”
Faster than she could react, Tom jumped up on the table and began dancing. “Ha-ha! He-he!
They’re coming for me! Just wait and see! Just wait and see! Ha-ha! He-he!”
Berberian grabbed his stun pistol and applied two hundred and fifty kilovolts to Tom’s sternum. Tom fell backward, hitting the hard sand, his body convulsing.
“Wake up, ma’am, Colonel Carlson needs to see you ASAP.”
Morales opened her eyes to see a burly, ginger-haired marine standing beside her cot.
“Whaah?” she said, half asleep, “Why?”
“I’m not at liberty to discuss it, ma’am.”
She didn’t like the sound of that. “Excuse me? I outrank the colonel. Anything he knows, I know. Why does he need to see me?”
The marine pointed his shock lance at her. “I’m sorry, ma’am, but you’re coming with me.”
“Goddammit, marine! I give the orders around here, and I’m ordering you to put down your weapon.” She stormed toward him until his weapon touched her chest. “I’m not going anywhere.”
The marine lowered his weapon and then keyed his comms device. “Reaper Six, this is Thunder Three. Over.”
She was close enough to hear the reply on the marine’s earpiece. “Thunder Three, Reaper Six. Send it.”
“Falcon Six refuses your orders. Permission to engage. Over.”
“Permission to engage?” Morales yelled. “You kidding me?”
“Thunder Three. Negative. Heading to your location, time now. Out.”
She glared at the marine. “Boy, I’m gonna have your ass when this is all over.”
She turned and grabbed her khakis. The marine just watched. She dressed quickly, though she took care to tie her hair into a neat little bun. Maintaining her military bearing was more important now than ever.
Moments later, Colonel Carlson arrived with two stocky marines in toe. “Commodore Morales, by order of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, I declare you unfit for duty. I am…”
“Bullshit!” She cut in. “This is mutiny, Carlson. Calling it anything else is like putting lipstick on a pig.”
Carlson continued. “I’m assuming command of this detachment until Major Jones can provide you with a clean bill of health. You’ll be confined to quarters until further notice. That is all.”
Clenching her fist, she ran toward Carlson. She felt a blow to the head. Then everything faded to black.
Morales awoke in a cold sweat. Intense afterimages of clinical decapitation seared into her mind without reason or context. She struggled for meaning.
A cursory glance at her surroundings confirmed her worst fears. The marines hadn’t confined her to her quarters. They’d thrown her into the brig.
A wave of someone else’s emotions flooded into her mind. And Tom was at the center of it all. She watched Tom wheel a cart of severed reptilian heads through the abattoir as dark green fluid dribbled from man-sized lizard carcasses on meat hooks. She saw a severed head bite Tom in a final nerve-spasmed gasp, and with it felt a new awareness. She experienced the escalating bullying of Tom as he struggled to describe his visions and the unsettling truth of Raptorian sentience to others who refused to understand or accept it. Storms of anguish and suffering battered her psyche, pushing her to sanity’s brink.
She descended further into Ehrlicher’s madness. She watched him become the conduit between the hives and humanity. When the hives beyond the mountains had learned the colonists were eating their kind, they sent their swarms toward the gleaming city upon the hill. Convinced that the Raptorians would ultimately overwhelm the colonists with superior numbers, Tom freed the Raptorians bred in captivity and subjugated his own people in the hope that it would appease the hives.
Morales watched in horror as Tom collaborated with the Raptorians to corral the colonists. Predator became prey. As a reward for his service the Raptorian hive minds had allowed Ehrlicher to eat their dead, but the logistics of traversing the eastern mountains had proved difficult for one human adult and his prepubescent workforce. So Tom had had to choose which colonists would live and who would be eaten. Each processed human was a ticking clock. As the colonists’ numbers dwindled so too did Tom’s projected lifespan.
She knew Ehrlicher was a monster, but she still pitied him. Then more visions came, filtered through Tom’s mind, but alien and born of a collective consciousness. Thousands of Raptorians streamed over a mountain pass armed with spears and rudimentary armor toward the cursed desert city.
Within seconds a marine sentry entered her cell. “What’s going on?”
“Get Colonel Carlson. Immediately.”
The marine shook his head. “I’m sorry, but that ain’t gonna happen. He’s busy.”
“Dammit, marine, that’s an order, not a request.”
“I don’t take orders from you anymore.”
Falling to the floor, she screeched louder. The marine hesitated, and then tried to lift her off the ground.
Morales kneed him in the groin. He toppled over, wheezing. She slammed his head against the floor, knocking him unconscious. Grabbing the marine’s shock lance, she sprinted from her cell, stunning a second marine rushing toward her.
She removed the comms device from the downed marine and broadcast over the battalion net.
“Reaper Six. This is Falcon Six. Report.” The instant the words left her mouth, she knew she’d made a mistake. Carlson wouldn’t respond to an order.
Then she reconsidered. No. Screw him, she thought. I’m in charge.
“Reaper Six. This is Falcon Six. You have thirty minutes to report to the brig to answer for charges of mutiny and sedition. Break. As you know, a defendant found guilty of mutiny, sedition, or failure to suppress or report a mutiny or sedition shall be punished by death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct. Break. If you cooperate, I will waive the death penalty. Over.”
“Prisoner Two. This is Reaper Six. Surrender immediately, or I will use deadly force to put you down. Out.”
“Reaper Six. You now have twenty-nine minutes. Out.”
Morales knew she had no way of reestablishing her authority now, but she needed to warn Carlson about what was coming.
The marines stormed the brig. She stunned five before they took her down.
She woke tied to a chair with a beaming Carlson seated across from her. “Well, well. You bested seven of my marines. Pretty good for a space squid.”
“Cut the crap, Carlson. And it’s Commodore Morales to you.”
Carlson rolled his eyes. “Don’t piss on my cornflakes and call it milk. Did you really think you could bust outta my brig or that my marines would follow you over me?”
“No. I just wanted your attention.”
“You sure as hell succeeded. Did you call me to plead for your release, to tell me you’re no longer infected?”
“No. I need to warn you. There are tens of thousands of the creatures we found in the abattoir coming here to wipe us out.”
Carlson laughed so hard he nearly fell out of his chair. “Now I know you’re a one hundred percent certifiable, class one whackjob. You constructed an elaborate fairy tale using a whiff of real intel.”
“So I’m right. Your sensors are picking up movement over the mountains.”
Carlson smirked, then his jaw tightened. “That’s no longer your concern.”
“Carlson. Hear me out. Send me out there. I can broker a deal and convince them we have enough food to prove we’re not a threat.”
Carlson chuckled. “You’re telling me they think we’re here to eat them? How the hell do you know that?”
She couldn’t tell him the truth. It was too preposterous. “Ehrlicher can communicate with them.”
“Bullshit. You said you could broker a deal, not Ehrlicher.”
“It doesn’t matter. Send me out there. Best case I come back with an agreement that avoids a fight. Worst case they kill me. Either way, you win.”
Carlson grinned. “Who said I wanted to avoid a fight?”
She lost it. “Are you insane? You think three hundred marines can stop tens of thousands of sentient creatures evolved to fight in one-point-one gees?”
Morales couldn’t decide whether Carlson was stupid or mad, but his response left little room for interpretation.
She had only one option.
Her thoughts reached out beyond the compound, and sought out a mind so mad, she doubted she could find any remnant of sanity. Receiving thoughts had become painless for her, but transmitting them required more effort than she’d imagined. Yet, she pushed on, sending images of the bivouac site with the locations of all marine sentries, the way to the compound, and the path to the brig. Blood dripped from her nostrils as her head throbbed from the strain.
A response emerged from the ether. I’m coming.
Days later, shortly after twilight, Morales’s cell door opened. Tom entered with the five children.
“Why did you bring them?” she said, glancing at the children, “Our work will require stealth.”
Tom grimaced. His thoughts entered her mind. We’re the only ones who will survive. If I leave them here, they will die with the rest.
She answered, The Raptorians will understand reason. We can show them we have our own food here, and we mean them no harm.
No. The thought’s emotional finality betrayed Tom’s madness. Do you think I wanted to eat the others? I had no choice.
She didn’t respond. It was pointless arguing with a madman. She just needed his help to get to the Raptorians.
How’d you get here so quickly? Morales projected.
The marines are using every available fighter to defend the colony’s perimeter. They left you locked here without a guard. I faked another epileptic episode and my guard bought it.
How’d you know what the marines were doing? You were under guard.
The hives told me. They have binos too.
Then she remembered the empty arms room. My God, she thought, they have rail guns.
She led Tom to the compound’s arms room, where she punched in her code into a wall-mounted keypad. A light scanned her retina, and then a door opened.
I can’t believe that bastard didn’t change the access codes, she thought. She grabbed two shock lances, handing one to Tom.
When they emerged from the compound, the area was deserted, but Morales saw a riot of activity in the distance as marines dug trenches, unrolled concertina wire, and installed automated spider mines. She was certain the marines would wrack up an impressive body count, but she was convinced the Raptorians would ultimately overwhelm them. Yet, she was still hopeful she could prevent a confrontation.
She led Tom and the children into the desert. After four hours of slogging through sand, she reoriented the group in a direction that would skirt New Roanoke’s eastern outskirts, providing them with a five-kilometer buffer to avoid tripping any remote defense systems.
The group meandered through sand dunes until the primary sun rose in the east, where its orange hemisphere illuminated a limitless stream of Raptorians funneling onto the valley floor.
Morales looked west, where she saw two armored mobiles heading in her direction, churning clouds of dust in their wake.
Waves of bloodlust washed over her. She broadcast her thoughts to the hive, pleading for mercy, but she might as well have tried reasoning with an earthquake.
The air rippled with the sonic boomlets of rail gun rounds streaming overhead toward the Raptorians. A little girl screamed. The other children held their hands over their ears, while Tom cackled with insanity.
Morales dove for the dirt, motioning for the others to follow. The children complied, but Tom ignored her, babbling incoherently.
The mobiles would be at their location in minutes.
The ground rumbled from the footfalls of thousands. Morales strained to reach the Raptorians. Please. Peace. Talk. She sent images of their starship, their lives, and their food stores.
The mobiles stopped within two hundred meters of her position. Carlson emerged from an exit ramp, armed with a rail gun. He crawled across the open plain, firing his weapon. His first shot landed near Tom, tearing a three-foot crater into the earth. Tom lost his footing and fell, and then another sonic boom heralded his disintegration.
Morales made one final plea to the hive minds, and in an instant, thousands ground to a halt. Then, a single Raptorian made its way toward her.
The air crackled as the Raptorian fired a round at Carlson. She watched as Carlson exchanged fire with the Raptorian. Using the distraction, she aimed her shock lance at Carlson, fired and missed.
Two squads of marines joined Carlson in the firefight. She took another shot, and missed. Another marine returned fire. Carlson fired again at the Raptorian. She glanced behind her and saw a whiff of smoke where the Raptorian had been standing. Then the ground began to shake as the Raptorians resumed their march.
Towers of sand exploded before Morales as more marines targeted her. She returned fire, stunning two marines. The children screamed. A little blonde girl panicked and bolted toward the Raptorians and a marine turned her to ash.
A tear rolled down Morales’s cheek as she struggled to suppress what she’d just witnessed. What have we become? she thought.
The marines appeared to have similar reactions and ceased fire. Carlson waved a white flag. She waved back. Carlson motioned for her to come forward, so she crawled across no-man’s land hoping for a peaceful solution. When she arrived, Carlson smiled and recited her previous words, “A defendant found guilty of mutiny, sedition, or failure to suppress or report a mutiny or sedition shall be punished by death.”
Then he pulled the trigger.
Sean Patrick Hazlett‘s first published short story, “Movement to First Contact”, appeared in the fourth issue of Plasma Frequency Magazine in February 2013.