Author : Bob Newbell

I’m going to die here, thought Or’Vykl to himself.

Or’Vykl stared out through the visor in his helmet at what had been a residential suburb of Birmingham, Alabama. The area showed little evidence of the orbital bombardment that had fallen upon more strategically important areas of North America. Or’Vykl looked from one house to the next. So many places to hide, he thought. He imagined a sniper shooting him dead from some second story window. Or maybe one of the houses is boobytrapped and an explosive device would kill him as soon as he entered. He forced himself to walk on.

Or’Vykl thought about the atmosphere on the other side of his faceplate. It was a lethal cocktail of nitrogen and oxygen and the pressure was one-fifth of what it was back home. He looked up. Even after all this time on Earth he had never gotten used to seeing a blue sky. Worse still, the star this planet orbited was a sickly yellow color, not the warm and reassuring red sun under which he had been hatched.

Suddenly, a sound came from the house on his left. Or’Vykl jumped behind a car and leveled his rifle at the house. For five solid minutes he crouched, ready to run if he could, ready to fight if he had to. At last, he convinced himself the sound had been a cat or the wind rattling a loose shutter or some such thing. He slowly got up and proceeded down the street.

Why are we even here, he thought. Why travel dozens of light-years to fight these people? They didn’t know we existed much less posed a threat until we bombed and invaded them. If this war had never started, right now I’d be back home sunning myself on a lounge rock and drinking a tall glass of–

A shot rang out. Or’Vykl froze. His helmet’s faceplate’s display showed a flashing blue dot annotating where his battlesuit’s sensors determined the shot originated. He aimed his rifle, shot three times, and then ran behind a trash dumpster.

“Or’Vykl to Enforcement! Sector 795, grid–” He consulted his display. “Grid 44! Taking fire! Request support!” He waited for a response. None came. “Enforcement, are you receiving? Request support in Sector 795, grid 44!” His helmet’s display showed he wasn’t even getting a synchronize-acknowledgment from Enforcement. His transmission was being blocked. The humans must have gotten their hands on a subspace transceiver and repurposed it into a jamming device.

Suddenly, he heard another shot and instantly felt searing pain in his back. “Warning!” said a synthetic voice in his ears, “Containment failure!” His battlesuit was venting chlorine. He had to get to safety and try to seal the breach. There was a large truck a short distance to the right. If I can get underneath it, I might have a chance, he thought.

He positioned himself to make a sprint for the truck, then he paused. What if he was being set up? Had the first shot been intended to make him run for the dumpster so he could be shot in the back? Was the apparent safety of the truck a subterfuge?

He ran. It was time for action, not second guessing, he thought. A moment later, he was flying through the air. He had run over an explosive device. His left leg was gone. He heard a voice in the distance say, “Got the son of a bitch!”

Or’Vykl was surprised by how little pain or fear he felt now. His last thought was his distaste for that blue alien sky.

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