Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

How were we to know
How far this war would go?
We weren’t ready,
We’re never ready,
To be over.

Bombs rained down without warning. The Keloden landed on the planet the next day, while we huddled in a shattered basement. Clinging to each other, and the things we thought we needed.
“You’re taking the Madran?”
“Benthusian guitars are too rare to lose. I toured the universe with it. The case is armoured, too. Could be useful when running from these trigger-happy giant frogs.”
Gerthe always smiles when he’s pushing through something he’d rather not face. I look over his shoulder and watch the forest burn beyond the city limits. We used to play tag there. I bury my head in his shoulder.
“We’ve only just found each other. This isn’t fair.”
He strokes the back of my head.
“Politicians who perpetuate wars don’t care about the people who live in war zones. Our job is to get out. Then we can get back to making music and life together. Besides, timing has never been our thing, has it?”
I let go, then grin at him. Neighbours since infancy, only admitting we loved each other in our twenties. He’s right.
“Pick up that expensive guitar, rock star. Prepare to run faster than from a mob of adoring fans.”
He chuckles.
“You didn’t see us on Linury: the booking agent didn’t tell us they eat any bands they really don’t like. We only just made it to the ship. Luckily, we’d chartered our own for that gig.”
I look outside. Night has fallen. The croaking invaders are serenading us with incomprehensible tales of what they slaughtered today. We run for it.

Take me back to making love,
Not fearing death from high above
We weren’t ready,
We’re never ready,
To be over.

Nine weeks and three worlds later, we were holed up in a blasted skiff on the far apron of what had been a bustling spaceport. The Keloden hit our capitol world much harder than ours. All the advice we’d got about making it here predated that, because nobody survived to update it.
“What do we do now?”
I look at him and grin. When sane options run out? Do something insane.
“I’ve been watching them. When they gather to croak sing, they never secure their vehicles. Let’s steal one of theirs for a change.”
He looks at me, hope dawning on his face. As if on cue, the nightly croaking chorus starts up.
“Grab everything. We’ll only get one chance.”
We race across the spaceport, desperation driving us to ignore the privations of the last two months.
I choose a medium freight lifter: big engines for hauling give them extra go when empty. Charging up the rear ramp, we run straight through to the control room. Throwing myself into the pilot’s saddle, I let intuition guide me because I can’t read the labels.
The ship comes alive. I hunt for seal and pressurise controls.
Something hits the back of the saddle. There’s shooting!
Gerthe shouts: “Upship!”
I lift off. Seal and pressurisation turns out to be automatic.
Once clear of the planet, I swing about to find the bullet-scored Madran case up against the saddle. Beyond that lies Gerthe, under the Keloden he disarmed and killed after it mortally wounded him.
He’s still in my arms when a Benthusian cruiser rescues me.

If you could only touch my hand,
I know this love would stand
We weren’t ready,
We’re never ready,
To be over.