Author: Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Ten kilometers out we dropped to below a hundred meters, sea-skimming and churning the water behind us as we split the night. We made landfall and proceeded to fly nap-of-the-earth inland down the mouth of what once would have been a raging river, now a dry dusty wound in the landscape.

Outside the cockpit the canyon walls loomed above us, leaning in as if to try to block out the sky, to swallow us. If there were any threats, they’d come from up there. In this chasm cut into the surface, our presence would only be known by the thundering rush of the air we displaced. Unless we slipped, caught a wall or misjudged a change in elevation, then the fireball would be visible from space. Nothing would matter then.

The crew was silent. Eyes on instruments, hands on sticks, counting down the seconds until target.

If we were successful tonight the balance of power here would be irrecoverably tipped, the strike that would win the war.

The closer we got to the target, the more winding the trench, evidence of how powerful this river once was before its flow was cut off.

Each time the ship banked, proximity alerts glowed cautionary warnings, wingtips dangerously close to contact, our belly barely clearing the bumps and rocks scattered about the valley floor.

Still, no-one spoke.

The destination marker appeared on the edge of the targeting display, and we continued to snake closer and closer until we entered the strike zone and then controlled chaos broke loose.

“Light the target,” our quarterback screamed from her perch in the upper observation seat, “let it rain, let it rain, let it rain.”

The bay doors peeled open and a flood of fist-size balls streamed out in our wash, blanketing the valley bed in a deep purple phosphorescent glow.

Targeting systems lit the wall ahead, no doubt setting off alarms all over the compounds on the surface above, and we nosed up slightly, exposing the launch tube for our single ordnance.

“Fire, fire, fire,” her voice drowned out by the roar of a solid fuel ignition as the spear leaped from our nose, and a blanket of flame poured through the cargo bay venting, lighting the valley floor.

“Climb, climb, climb,” the command redundant, as we already had the sticks pulled back hard, throttles pushed to the pins racing for the outer atmosphere before anyone on the ground had time to react.

Beneath us the massive missile slammed into the canyon wall, punching through the rock and into the reservoir the controlling faction was hoarding for themselves. Water gushed from the tear, and once it found purchase, its sheer volume and weight tore the hole ever wider, racing down the dry spillway to meet the sea.

As the water reached the blanket of dropped pods, they exploded with life, micro bioreactive agents released into the soil, washed up the walls where they found purchase, releasing tendrils into the earth that fed on the water and crawled for kilometers outward, popping through the dusty surface in a wave of green, of life, grasses, shrubs, trees, insect larvae that grew, hatched, bred and multiplied in seconds.

By the time the watch commander had given up trying to find the intruder in the sky, the land around them was transformed into lush jungle landscape reaching skyward.

Their hold on the people here would be broken; food, shelter, fresh water, all of the things the invaders withheld to keep a boot on the necks of those they sought to control, all once again freely available.

They would find the infection of natural opulence ran deep and grew back faster than even their flame cannons could burn down.

In the trees, the indigenous population could wait, while now feeding and growing stronger.

Soon they would take back what was theirs.

As we reached the peaceful envelope of space, gravity releasing us from the high-velocity crush of our escape, our quarterback said simply, “Well done. Let’s go home.”

Below us, somewhere, an oppressed people had been given what they needed to take back their land.

Food, water, shelter.

And hope.