Author : Graham T. Swanson
Somewhere inside the soldierâ€™s brain, a neuron crackled and died sending a signal to a limb incapable of receiving, or doing anything about it had it actually done so. He had long ago lost all link or power to the armorâ€™s motivators.
It didnâ€™t hurt. He was thankful for that, at least; the simulacrae hadnâ€™t lied. The problem was the stasis. The inability to do anything. Imprisoned within your own body, knowing the exact nano count (youâ€™d been drilled in it since the day you got your Aegis) and knowing that you were going to die.
Another neuron fired. Another moment passed, and the broken figure in the emeraldine armor remained a still portrait beneath the blazing sun. Around him, the calcisand swirled in a new, violent gust of wind, scratching at the glazed surface of the armor ineffectually. Outside the Aegis, that mightâ€™ve killed him.
Plenty of time to wait. He listened as best he could for the telltale howl of a stormkicker wind, and fought down the panic rising behind his eyes.
That which we believe in, we are capable of. That which we are capable of, we do.
You are a Protector. Your will becomes your law. You are a Protector.
Another neuron fired. Another moment passed.
And then he did hear a sound. Loud, arrhythmic, the clatter of bone on bone. A sound that broke even his neurochemically enforced calm. An enemy sound. Instinctually, he listened for the soft following thump of the massive feet. Another half of his mind chanted an Our Father as the three-meter shadow appeared at the crest of the dune, four feet moving in cadence.
It was hurt, its tiniest weave betraying that fact. He wondered what it wanted here. Heâ€™d heard the stories, that the Vraakan ate the dead; seen the films. Maybe that was what it wanted; maybe it was a survivor, seeking last sustenance. He took morbid pleasure in the fact that that scared him less than the idea of being buried by a stormswept dune, covered over like a footnote. A footnote in a war whose story was filled with them already.
The great figure approached him. From beneath the black-lacquer crags of its armor, stretched across its mighty, demoniac reptilian form, he could see the dark-hued blood flow in rivulets over the red-grey scales. It was breathing heavily, harshly. He glimpsed the huge, ugly wound that would kill this enemy.
The xeno, the enemy, hadnâ€™t come to feed. Theyâ€™d come to die.
One massive enemy arm gently circled his ribcage and brought him up,cradling him like a mother with her child.
Firey eyes locked with his, and he realized their femininity somehow. A baritone whimper rumbled from her throat as she set herself down where he had been. When he didnâ€™t respond, she whimpered again, pitifully.
She wanted a companion, was all. She didnâ€™t want to die alone. He nodded, moving.
Afterwards, they died together.
They died warm.