Author : James C. Clar
“Shit,” Corporal Sean Collins thought out loud. “I’ve got to calm down. My oxygen will be gone in twenty minutes if I don’t. I need to stay low. If I raise my head above the dunes to take a shot, that Martian bastard will vaporize me.”
Collins had gotten separated from his patrol during a violent sandstorm … a storm that, although abating at ground level, was still disrupting communications. Attempting to make his way back to base he became disoriented and wound up alone and with his back against a sheer rock wall. Thank God for the undulating sand dunes that partially protected his position to the front. He fell in love with them, in fact, as soon as the shooting started. A lone ‘Marty – probably separated from his men as well – spotted him an hour ago and began firing. “Son of a bitch,” Collins swore. “My tour’s up in three weeks. I just want to make it home to see Rachel and my baby daughter sometime before she’s ready to go to college! If I’m just patient and wait out the storm, Command will send a flier out to look for me.” Hunkered down and shivering on an inimical, alien landscape, Sean weighed his options.
Meanwhile, Zadok crouched behind some boulders and checked the charge on his pulse rifle; enough left for two, maybe three, bursts. His elevated position gave him a huge advantage over his enemy. The human had nowhere to run and the moment he raised his head above the dunes that sheltered him, Zadok could pick him off with ease. Even now, the Martian soldier saw a flash as sunlight reflected off the helmet or visor of the trapped earthling. It was just a matter of time. Although eager to return to base for the communal meal, Zadok … like most of his ancient race … had learned patience over the long, silent eons. He was more than willing to wait.
In Topeka, Kansas Rachael Collins walked out into her backyard. Her young daughter was in her arms. One of her friends had shown her how to find Mars in the evening sky. She gazed up at the distant planet and thought of her husband. Someone else had tried to explain that the light from Mars took nearly fifteen minutes to reach Earth. Rachael only barely understood what they had been talking about and, to be honest, she didn’t really care. All she knew was that her husband was up there somewhere on that distant, dusty world. When she stood in her yard and looked up at the faint orange glow in the darkening sky, she felt a connection with Sean. His tour was nearly up but it would a year or so before he made it home. It didn’t matter. Unlike her impetuous husband and his crazy Irish relatives, Rachael was infinitely patient. She was more than willing to wait.