Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

I’ve got my finger on the trigger.

It took the better part of an hour to make the climb from where you forced my fighter into the dirt to this rocky outcrop overlooking your crash site, but I’ve got the high ground now and you don’t stand a chance.

Through the sight on my long gun I watch as you frantically dart towards your burning ship, only to be forced back by the flames again and again. I don’t quite see the point, you can’t put the flames out, and even if you could it’s never going to fly again. Niether will you once I get tired of watching your futile antics.

From here your ship doesn’t look nearly as fierce as our mission briefing described. It was hard to make out as we flashed past each other in the silent duel of space, or even in the frenetic dogfight once we’d punctured each others hulls and been forced to take refuge in the lower atmosphere. You fought like a champion, I’ll give you that.

Funny, now that it’s sitting still, your fighter looks more like a crop duster with guns welded on than a military vessel. You’re braver than I thought.

You’ve recovered something from the burning craft now, a small package? Food maybe? Weapons or a survival kit? It’s hard to see from here through the smoke and heat haze of your ship’s final throws, but whatever you’ve found you’ve finally abandoned your ship, staggering with your burden away towards the low rocky ridge closer to my perch.

It might protect you from the ship’s blast, should it come, but it won’t save you from me, you’re actually giving me a clearer shot.

That is a crop duster. What the hell? I can see the builder’s marking on the tail fins now, you would have had to buy that black market, or from us directly.

That doesn’t make any sense, why would a merciless killing force like you’ve been built up as, be flying refitted farm equipment?

Behind me my ship explodes, the concussion pounding in my ears even through what remains of my helmet. Thank god this atmosphere is breathable, but I guess that’s what we’re fighting for, isn’t it? You want it, we want it.

As you tear your helmet off I realize you’re not nearly as ugly as I expected. Not entirely unlike us, and… jesus! You’re a woman! I’m no sexist, but my finger comes up off the trigger nonetheless. You’re tearing into the package you recovered, I can’t wait to see…

When the tiny hands reach up, and the wailing of a child carries broken on the wind, the barrel of my gun lowers to the ground.

This is no crack military fighting force. Woman flying farm equipment with their children on board? We have some of the best intelligence personel in known space, they didn’t miss this. They didn’t misread this. They misled us.

I look high up through the cloudless sky and catch the occasional flash of light as the sun catches a wing, or the streak of a weapon’s discharge and wonder who’s going to win, and when they do how long it’s going to take for them to come down here and find me. Or you. Us.

The word sticks in my throat, and I know that as much as I don’t know what you’re going to do when I get there, I really don’t have any other choice.

As I start to climb down from on high to where you’re huddled, rocking your child in your arms, I’ve still got my finger on the trigger, and I really don’t know who to trust.

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