Author : Connor Harbison

The sand got everywhere.

Lieutenant Sawyer cursed her luck. Others from her Academy class had postings all over the galaxy, on exotic planets and flashy space stations. Only she was stuck here on this assignment.

Aurelia IV was her home for the foreseeable future. Its nickname was ‘The Beach’, but no beach Sawyer had ever visited hosted Aurelia’s killer sandstorms, boiling temperatures, and obstinate insurgents.

Aurelia’s colonial government had been overthrown in a bloody coup. Now the Sawyer and the other marines had reestablished order in a few large cities, but the outlying areas remained unsecured. Countless patrols through rural towns and villages did nothing to improve their situation, though each mission did seem to require a blood toll from the marines passing through.

The locals always unnerved Sawyer when she marched through their homes. They’d stare at her and the other marines with dark, sunken eyes. The eyes told one story; submission. These were not insurgents. Those “freedom fighters” lived in caves out in the desert, not in the towns.

There was one villager, in one nameless cluster of mud huts, who Sawyer couldn’t get out of her mind. A boy, or a man really, with startlingly blue eyes. Through the visor of her power armor those eyes jumped out at Sawyer. There was fire in those eyes.

Sawyer spotted those eyes half concealed in the shade of an alleyway during the next sweep of the village. She broke from the column to investigate.

Down the alley and around a corner, through the back streets of the village the boy with the blue eyes was always just out of reach. Finally he ducked into a hut and she followed him.

Even their bedrooms were sandy, Sawyer noted with disdain. When this assignment was over she never wanted to see sand again. The blue eyes hung there in the gloom, boring into her.

Those eyes proved more adept at getting past power armor than any insurgent’s IED. Soon Sawyer was stepping out of her shell, feeling truly vulnerable for the first time in months. The eyes appeared to glow in the dim hut interior. As they approached Sawyer could swear the two bright blue orbs grew, until they dominated her vision.
Sawyer let out a small gasp at his thrust. Then there was warmth. Wetness. She smelled iron, and tasted it too. As Sawyer’s vision faded, the last thing she saw was those two bright blue eyes, shining in triumph.

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