Author : Sarah Mendonca
Slumped in the alley, the woman repeated the name like a prayer, mostly forgotten long ago. No, that wasn’t it.
Passersby ignored her: just another failed rebel unable to move on.
She looked at them all, so young and old, so clean and untainted. Her battered and swollen nose saved her from smelling how low she’d sunk, at least.
Years earlier the revolution had swept through the system faster than a plague. Their charismatic leader had been a breath of unpolluted air. She smiled, the corner of her mouth cracked and bled.
And then the Union crashed on them faster than a solar flare. Even today the heat of their weapons scorched her dreams.
Her leather jacket was the only thing of value she had left. They hadn’t taken the abhorrent thing, and she was too cold to throw it away.
“No, it started with a K.”
Her anger kept her warm for a long time. Slowly, she lost it, as her friends fell in ones and twos and whole ships disintegrated into sparks that faded in the void. Not even losing her sister during their most recent hyper jump could bring it back.
A pair of men stopped in the market place, leaning against a wall, and talking in low tones. They looked at her.
The suns began to set, the sky burning red once more. Curfew began in less than an hour, and vendors were starting to pack up their wares. Would the shelter already be full? The woman tried to get up, and fell back to the ground. Her stump aching from the cold.
“Kris… that’s it.”
She’d finally met their leader while huddled around a solar heater at the main camp, too tired to even make small talk. Sometimes, the revolutionaries envied the townies or people in the orbiting habitats; at least they had a warm place to sleep at night. The woods were cold, and dark, and wet.
One by one everyone went off to bed until they were the only ones left. She’d lost her warm coat the night before; it had protected her from the worst of the white phosphorous, but been burned to shreds in the process. He put his arm around her to keep her warm, but his kindness was lost on her. The cold ate at her worse than any wound. As she shivered in his arms her mind became paralyzed with despair like frost. After all the guns and ships, sub-primal blasters and ectoplasmic grenades, all it took was a blunt knife to kill the rebellion.
Her bleary eyes looked at the end of the alley. There she saw the man that could have saved them all. His icy blue eyes stared down at her.
“Kris. I’m sorry.”
The man frowned, cracked her head against the wall, and wrestled Kris’ jacket off her shoulders. The suns were setting. Winter was on its way, and the nights grew colder with each passing day.