Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer
Every anniversary of the counterstrike, they show that cursed video. You know the one: snow on the ground, ashes in the air, a lone woman in a ragged battlesuit moving cautiously across an open field. She’s gripping a Mantis 14 like the ancient beam weapon’s a holy relic.
She straightens, bringing the beamer up. The discharge is violet laced with blue lightning, a clear sign the main tube is overstressed. It also means the effective range is under eight metres. The Drandic were in no danger, but they didn’t know that. The pulsing green riposte is blindingly fast and actually comprised of two dozen needle-thin beams in a searing helix. Her arms go wide and she falls, pierced through. Hitting the ground, her limbs bounce once. The snow raised on impact sprinkles her body, mixing with the ashes caught in her dark hair. The field is still.
Music swells, poignancy segueing into stirring tones. From behind her – to the viewer’s left – a dozen battlesuited figures rush, Mantis 21s blazing, spears of purple energy hurtling toward the Drandic line.
The scene fades and the words ‘For Humanity, For Earth, For Her’ fade in. It’s a moving piece of work, wrought from tragedy to inspire a race.
She smiles from the bed, blankets and sheets rolled and twisted into a comfortable nest. Happens every night, no matter how I straighten them. I even tried using spring clips to keep things from getting tangled, but every night when I came in, she’d be asleep in a spiral nest, leaving a neat row of clips balanced on my headrest.
I smile and point to her bedside table: “There.”
She sits up and swiftly braids her hair, morning light shining on pale skin, her one remaining breast casting a slight shadow on her ribs. With a wicked grin as she sees where I’m looking, she wiggles the whole nest sideways so she can reach the mug without exposing anything below her ribcage to the cool air of our home.
“Video brooding?” She can read me so well.
“There should be a sequel.”
She turns, bright eyes glinting at me over the edge of the mug – she’s warming the tip of her nose against it.
A whisper comes from behind the mug: “Quiet on set. Action!”
“Falling snow covers the field. Churned tracks have left a patch of untouched ground about her. Off to one side, we see blood in the snow around the camera team’s foxhole. They were taken away. She remains.
From the right comes a lone figure dressed in camouflage motley. He slings a Drandic pulse rifle across his back, crouches by the body and gently brushes the snow away. With a wordless cry of anger, he stoops and lifts her, then staggers off directly away from the camera. There is no music, just the fading sound of his laboured breathing and struggling footsteps. As they disappear into the distance, the scene fades and the words ‘She wasn’t even one of yours’ appear.”
Helli-Ann ducks her head, blinking back tears. That’s quite enough of that. I cross the room and settle beside her.
“Hey hey, you made it. Something in the way you moved caught me. When they left you where you fell, I knew. We both starred in that video. I nearly killed the fem who matches my heart.”
She smiles, runs fingertips across the rings of scar tissue that cover her left pectoral, then leans forward to rest her forehead against mine.
“Good thing our hearts are on the right.”