Author : N. Thomas Parshall

If I hadn’t made the tran-atomics strike, we couldn’t have afforded the cottage in Coventry. If we couldn’t afford the cottage, we wouldn’t have been docked during the strike. If we hadn’t been docked during the strike, we would have waited to start our family. If we had waited, we would have been destroyed with the rest of Earth Force. So the birth of my daughter saved the rest of my family.

We watched the feeds as the invaders swept aside the efforts of the belters. Our friends and neighbors died two for every one they destroyed, and there was nothing we could do. Time and again, I caught myself about to leave for my singleship to help. Then I would remember that I had rented it to a friend, and I had no way to defend us.

We watched as the invaders came within range of Earth’s primary defenses, and for once were glad that they had been so paranoid of us belters. And we cried when we saw that it wasn’t enough.

The invaders died by the thousands, yet again, but they had enough left to bombard the home planet. Even our simple scopes here in the belt could see the flashes of death on her surface. And still they fought. Missiles left from an unsought war a hundred years ago lifted slowly and locked on to anything in Near Earth Orbit. By then the only things left in that orbit were invaders, and as slow as the missiles were, more invaders died.

I supposed they knew they couldn’t win.

The few hundred invaders that were left turned to flee the system. As they flowed outward along the path of destruction they had wrought, they seemed to have forgotten the rest of the belters on the far side of the system. Weeks had passed and every ship capable waited for them. No invader left the Solar System.

That was a decade ago. Ten years at near light speeds. I know that we learned how to reach these speeds by studying the wreckage of the invaders, but it doesn’t matter. They came for us out of the black, and that is how we will come for them.

Ten years for me, nineteen for you. Daughter, this is why your father had to leave. You saved us once, and now it’s my turn.

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