Seven Seconds

by 

Author : Aelanna Cessara

Seven.

He only had seconds left to live. Despite all the augmentations and training that the soldier had received, the result of countless centuries of evolution and refinement in the art of war, technology could not truly ease the limit of mortality. The projectile had easily penetrated so many layers of armor, flesh, and bone, and now he was dying, bleeding from wounds that no medic could patch.

Six.

Perhaps if there had been a major medical facility nearby, he might have had a chance. But this was a battlefield, and the screams of the other wounded and dying were all around. There was no hope for this one, who had survived so much only to die on this war-torn field on a forgotten planet. There was not even a family to whom news of his demise might cause pause, no lover on a distant colony clinging to his memory, no friends who might pray for his soul.

Five.

But he was not alone. Patched into his armor, his suit, and the implants within his very brain, another entity still stirred, even as he slowly faded. This was no flesh-and-bone woman, but it was the only companion he had known in so many long months of harsh combat. The artificial intelligence had access to all his health monitors, and knew without a doubt the ultimate fate of this broken human man.

Four.

Flickers of memory pulsed through the soldier’s mind as the countless cells that made up his brain started to die, a rushing torrent of thoughts and remembered events that he could only passively watch. Washed out colors and faint sounds focused, and he could see distant and forgotten scenes long forgotten.

Three.

They were friends. She blushed as he kissed her timidly, awkwardly pressing his lips against hers, her cheeks flushed red as her brilliant eyes gazed back at him. The world seemed to slow to a crawl as she spoke those words for the first time, and he exulted in that knowledge.

Two.

They were lovers. The warmth of her body and the touch of her smooth skin calmed him as they lay together in bed. He weaved his fingers through hers and whispered urgently to her, begging, pleading. His breath faltered and his face glowed with unimaginable joy as she said yes.

One.

They were a family. She sat next to him as they watched their children play in the front yard, the sun warming their faces as the gentle sounds of laughter and joy filtered through the clean air. He leaned back and sighed happily, breathing in the scent of summer. She held him tight and kissed him again as he closed his eyes drowsily, all his pains and worries forgotten in that perfect moment of eternity.

Zero.

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